MARCH 2018

By Jon D. Melegrito

Letter from Washington


..."A Fresh push for change"

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“We are losing our lives,” one of the students said, “while the adults are playing around.”

Seventeen people died that day. Mainly high school students. This time, they have vowed to take matters into their hands as a “fearless and powerful political voice calling for stricter gun laws.”

They are demanding change. On March 24, they are staging a huge demonstration in Washington. They call it “March For Our Lives.”
Here in the Washington DC area, Filipino American young people are expressing similar concerns.

Change must happen!

“This happens far too often,” says 12-year-old Joseph Abelardo Conaty, a 7th grader at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School in Laurel, MD. “Actions must be taken so that school shootings can be stopped from happening.”

Conaty was six years old when 20 elementary school children were killed in Newtown, Conn. He still remembers that tragic day. They talked about it in class, as did school children across the country who were assured of protection by their teachers, that they will do everything they can to keep the children safe.
But then it happened again.

“Quite honestly, the President should take action just as much as Congress should,” Conaty adds. “If anything I believe that our president should be the person to lead.”

Conaty, however, admits he is not fully confident the nation’s political leaders will take the necessary action. “Stopping a problem involves bi-partisan action in Congress and team work with the White House,” he says. “But that’s not taking place.”

Olivia Jose, 12, and her brother Sebastian, 8, of Bristow, VA. have been talking with their parents about the recent school shootings. “At this point in time, they’re mostly just in shock about the current lack of gun control,” says their mom, Amanda Jose.

"It should be illegal to have a gun if you have no reason to have one,” says Sebastian, a third-grader at Bristow Run Elementary. “And it should be harder to get one, to make sure that you're actually able to use that item. Before you can buy one, they need to make sure you know how to use it, and to make sure you don't play to kill anyone with it, especially kids."

Adds Olivia, a 7th-grader at Gainesville Middle School: "I don't understand why it's so easy to just buy a gun. Why can't we have stricter rules? It doesn't make sense that anyone can just go into a store and buy a gun. I think that if you're not in the police or in the military, then you shouldn't even have a gun. Or if you do want one and you're not a police man/woman or in the military, it should definitely be harder to get one."

“What would Dr. Jose Rizal Do?”

With the killing of school children by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 still fresh in their minds, Filipino American students wrote essays about gun violence as part of the 2016 Rizal Youth Awards. They addressed the question: “What would Dr. Jose Rizal do about Gun Violence?”

Seventeen-year-old Joseph Brandon B. Gopiao of Burke,Va. wrote that Rizal “will stand with others around the country, including myself, who have said, ‘Enough!’ Death by guns claims more than 30,000 lives every year. Together with all of us, he will demand safety for the children, for the communities and most importantly, for this nation.”

We’d like to believe the adults will listen and do something this time.



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