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Two young girls protest at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. near the Trump International Hotel. Photo by Tim Mudd on Unsplash.

UNM students respond to gun violence in their communities

Gun violence is a growing concern across the nation, as in recent years the number of mass shootings annually has grown considerably, from 417 in 2019, to 700 in 2021, with 2022 on track to match last year’s high, according to the Washington Post. In Albuquerque, there have been 51 deaths related to guns in 2022 alone, according to Gun Violence Archive. Though New Mexico’s government has taken steps toward greater levels of gun control, it’s still not enough, according to Cheryl Haase, social media lead for Moms Demand Action, an organization of mothers devoted to ending gun violence in their communities.

“One big law that we got passed here in New Mexico, but it's not nationwide and it really needs to be nationwide, is background checks on all gun sales. There are background checks on gun sales at a gun store, but they're only about 60% of gun sales. The other 40% are online sales,” Haase said.

New Mexico’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, colloquially known as “Red Flag laws,” prevent people who are determined to be “extreme risks” from owning or obtaining guns. The law defines someone as an “extreme risk” when their family or law enforcement petitions the court citing history of violence, substance abuse, unsafe gun use or threats made to themselves or others. To University of New Mexico student Marcella Johnson, these laws help those in danger feel safe in their living situations.

“I have felt safer due to the Red Flag laws that New Mexico has … I wish more places would adopt them, but I'm glad New Mexico has them,” Johnson said.

UNM student Amparo Arredondo acknowledged the importance of having organizations against gun violence around campus and within the Albuquerque area in addition to the laws that are already in place.

“I actually wasn’t aware that there was a New Mexico chapter of Moms Demand Action but I'm glad that they want to reach out to UNM students. In the society we live in today, organizations like these are needed to improve our safety and lifestyle,” Arredondo said.

Haase encourages UNM students to get involved in the fight for greater action against gun violence.

“I'm a member of Moms Demand Action, but we also have a group that's an offshoot of us …  called Students Demand Action. It's for college students and high school students,” Haase said.

Students Demand Action started in 2018 after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which resulted in the death of 17 and the wounding of 14 more, according to NBCNews. The group is comprised of student activists devoted to fighting gun violence through legislation, according to the group’s website. Johnson worries about problems that might arise when starting a group about a controversial topic like gun control.

“I worry about the group getting harassed by other groups because it's a controversial topic … UNM has a large out-of-state population and even an in-state one that doesn't understand New Mexico gun culture, which only serves to isolate the two groups further,” Johnson said.

Students interested in joining Students Demand Action can email Moms Demand Action at Outside of organized student groups, there are other ways students can make their voices heard in helping to prevent gun violence, such as reaching out to their senators and telling them to vote for gun violence prevention laws, as well as thanking them for their support, according to Haase.

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For Arredondo, the impact of gun violence is something that they feel has deeply impacted their personal life, altering the way they see average day-to-day activities like taking a trip to Walmart. Arredondo is from El Paso, Texas, where a mass shooter killed 23 with around four dozen others being struck by gunfire in 2019, according to Reuters.

“There was this odd presence for a few months because people were afraid. I was afraid as well. To this day, I have not stepped into that Walmart and I probably never will — I cannot imagine going in there all nonchalant without remembering the fear we felt for months and the innocent victims who were stripped away from their futures,” Arredondo said.

Alizay Chavez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at or on Twitter @ChavezAlizay

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