Written for The Argo by Moujnir Lewis
Sarah Sharp, founder of the Students Demand Action organization at Stockton University, remembers the traumatic event that inspired her to take action. On July 14, 2019, after a long day serving at a local church, Sharp got a call from a close friend who told her that a mutual friend of theirs had been fatally shot.
“Gun violence affects everyone differently and for me, it started a fire inside of me to demand change” Sharp says.
True to her feelings, Sharp has stayed busy demanding change. Since founding SDA in October of 2019, Sharp has led organization members to contact local congresspeople, on-campus police, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to enact real change. The content of these interactions ranges from requesting background checks to inquiring about the implementation of red flag laws.
Rachel Burt, a prospective Stockton student, says that the SDA’s existence is one of the main reasons the university is on her radar. For Burt, it comes down to the fact that awareness and lack of protocol are dangerous.
“The United States requires a test and license to operate vehicles; why can’t we have the same for an equally dangerous tool such as a gun?” Burt says.
Attracting new students to the university is a side effect of a bigger goal. Sharp is steadfast in her aim to create both a safe environment and open conversation on campus, regardless of political affiliation or knowledge.
“I started SDA to honor those who’ve been lost to gun violence and to those who are survivors,” Sharp says. “Nobody should have to feel the pain that comes with losing someone to gun violence or being a survivor of gun violence. I don’t want anyone to ever have to experience what I went through.”
SDA is on the eve of its first anniversary, and there is still much Sharp intends to accomplish. She clarifies to prospective members that taking a stand against gun violence does not mean giving up freedom
“We are not trying to ban all guns, but create stricter legislation to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” Sharp says, regarding the Second Amendment. “I never really understood the impact of gun violence until I had been affected.”
If one has not experienced gun violence personally, that does not mean their contributions are for naught. Whether you are a survivor or an ally, SDA welcomes you with open arms.
Open discourse among current members and those wishing to join is as vital as ever. Anyone can attend weekly ZOOM meetings held on Thursdays at 4:30 p.m., and there are no prerequisites for membership.