We must take action to prevent gun violence

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer

Five minutes. That’s how long it takes to get to my apartment at VCU from the 400 block of Gilmer Street, where two shooting deaths occurred on two consecutive days earlier this month.

These shootings reflect a trend of an increased number of deaths due to gun violence in the Richmond area in April.

Notably hard for our community was the death of 20-year-old VCU student Cody Woodson, who was killed on April 5 after walking his girlfriend back to her car on Gilmer Street. Clarisse Liclic, Woodson’s girlfriend and a student at University of Richmond, posted on Instagram and highlighted the loss our community felt.

“As news reports are filling in and being shared, I can’t help but think about how it shouldn’t have happened,” Liclic’s post read. “It shouldn’t have and it will never not be right. He was my person.”

Another beautiful life was stolen. Another young man with limitless potential who was just getting started. Another VCU student, gone. It’s difficult to reconcile the loss of a precious life due to the disease of gun violence that continues to threaten our community.

I’m exhausted from hearing about cases like these. I thought we would do better after Sandy Hook, Orlando and Parkland. Yet here we are — even after all the marches, protests and dialogues, we still live in a nation where it’s easier to get a gun than cold medicine, according to a 2016 CNN article.

Gun control on the federal level has been a hard-fought, intricate battle. But it’s especially difficult to reconcile death from gun violence when shootings happen so close to home. I know many people who live near Gilmer Street, and I often walk down that path. That could have been me. It could have been any of us.

As college students, we’re supposed to feel safe and protected on our campus. But after these recent deaths, it’s hard to feel that way. I don’t feel safe walking in certain areas near campus anymore, and this is a sentiment echoed by many members of the student body.

There are realities and dangers we must confront due to our campus being located in a city, but no student should have to feel as if taking a wrong turn dictates whether or not they live. There are concrete actions both students and the university must take to increase campus safety ensure that these devastating incidents do not happen again.

For one, students should carry pepper spray with them at all times — even guys. Additionally, if you have to walk outside of areas that are right by campus, such as those north of Broad Street, don’t go alone. This applies to everyone, even in broad daylight. Traveling in groups is always the safest choice.

VCU must do better. While the university has increased its police force in the Carver neighborhood, there are further actions that can be taken to increase student safety. 

For example, RamSafe, which is available to all students for rides to nearby locations, needs to be a more seamless process. The wait times, especially at night, are often 30 minutes or longer, and I’ve personally witnessed many cases of friends choosing to walk rather than wait. While I understand that it may be difficult given the number of staff available, it’s essential that the school invests more into protecting the student body.

These shootings have been devastating to our community, but most importantly, they can never happen again on our campus, or anywhere for that matter. It’s up to all of us to do our part and work collectively to end gun violence.

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