I might describe my decision to get involved in gun violence prevention as a tipping “journey” rather than a single point. I’ve watched gun violence wreak havoc and devastation in the world around me for my entire life.

Growing up with active shooter drills

I have vivid memories of finding out about mass shootings many times throughout my adolescence.

I remember doing active shooter drills in middle school, where a teacher would go around and bang on classroom doors, yelling and begging to be let inside, to train us not to open the door for anyone while in lockdown. There were once credible shooting threats at my high school, and a few years later, at my university too.

I’ve had friends whose houses have been shot into, and I’ve witnessed incidents of gun violence myself.

So, why did I decide to get involved in gun violence prevention now? What changed?

“Someone will do something.” So I did.

I’ve learned recently that when people see bad things happen, most of them think, “someone will do something.”

I think many of us assume that someone else is better equipped to handle a crisis than we are, and think that that someone will be the one to step up and handle things. The problem is, while you stand by and think, “someone will do something,” everyone else does, too. That means that, a lot of the time, you have to step up and be that someone.

So I did.

Luck + network + resources = Pieces falling together

After the tragedies in Buffalo, NY (May 14), and Uvalde, TX (May 24) in 2022, I saw that March For Our Lives was going to hold marches around the country to call for federal action against gun violence. They were looking for locals to organize each march and I immediately signed up.

I spent the next week or so asking myself why I thought that was a good idea. I’d never organized anything like a march, and I had no idea what I was doing.

The first thing I did was reach out to San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, to see if they might want to be involved. Lucky for me, they did. At that point, I didn’t have a plan for who else I might contact or what I would do next. It was really thanks to SD4GVP that I got access to the network and resources I needed to put together a big march.

I then reached out to staff at Waterfront Park (the location for the march), who put me in touch with others I’d need help from, including local law enforcement. In some ways, the help I got from others made me feel like all I did to organize was watch the pieces fall together.

Zero to march in four weeks

Even as everything came together, I was worried no one would actually show up for the march on June 11. I had been focused on figuring out the logistics and didn’t do much promotion. When city staff first asked me how many people I expected to attend, I said something like, “hopefully at least a hundred.”

Imagine my shock when I saw that over 1,500 people had RSVP’d online. Watching those people actually show up was surreal, and made me excited and beyond proud to see that so many people believed in what we were doing.

Although the march was more successful than I’d ever imagined, the work is far from over. I hope if you’re reading this, you’ve felt compelled to be the someone to step up and do something too. We can change things, but none of us can do it alone. Write and call your representatives. Vote. And don’t think that change only happens at the highest levels – you can have an impact by taking action in local elections and policy too.

The important thing is that we all take action together as we fight for a better future.

Kallie Funk is a 23-year-old, pre-med, post-baccalaureate student at University of California San Diego.

photo credit: Kallie Funk

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