Students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been busy over the last several weeks demanding that legislators in Raleigh take action to stop easy access to guns and find a way to deal with gun violence across the state.
In late August, a doctoral student went into a lab on campus and fatally shot his faculty advisor, physical sciences professor Zijie Yan. The entire campus and surrounding area, including nearby public schools and businesses, was locked down as police spent hours searching for the suspect. He was eventually captured after approximately three hours of being on the run.
A few weeks later, on Sept. 12, the UNC chapter of the March For Our Lives organization – along with national co-founder David Hogg as well as other anti-gun violence advocates – held a rally in Bicentennial Plaza, across from the state legislature in downtown Raleigh, to call for stricter gun laws.
After the rally ended, students and advocates walked across the street to the General Assembly where they made their way to the House chamber gallery to watch the representatives meet.
While in the gallery, House Speaker Tim Moore, a UNC graduate himself, introduced the students while speaking on the House floor. Seconds after the introduction, the students serenaded him and other Republican legislators with chants of “vote them out!” Moore banged the gavel to try to get the students to quiet down, but they refused. The video feed was temporarily cut off as the students were kicked out of the House.
Once the students had been removed, Moore decided to make a joke mocking them instead of addressing any of their concerns.
“This isn’t a pep rally…it’s the House of Representatives,” he said. “I believe they must be Duke students.”
The very next day, on Sept. 13, UNC went into lockdown again after a man threatened employees with a gun at a bagel shop in the student union. Although no one was shot, the incident brought back the same feelings of terror that many students felt just a few weeks earlier as the campus was once again locked down so authorities could look for the armed man.
Following the second lockdown, Moore once again chose to make a mockery of the incident, telling reporters that perhaps students should carry guns on campus.
“[UNC is] a gun-free zone. And that clearly is not working,” he said. “You’re not going to just snap your fingers and get rid of guns. That’s not reality. Criminals are going to have guns, and the best solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Two days after the second lockdown and Moore’s statement, UNC students and grassroots organizers set up a table on campus to voice their anger at the House speaker’s statements and to protest again, WRAL reported.
WRAL spoke with some students who participated in the protest. UNC junior Rainey Campbell told the TV station about the terror she felt.
“The second time I was outside the pit when I looked up and I see people screaming and running, and that just brought back all of these emotions that I had from the first [shooting],” Cambell said.
Student organizers told WRAL that they were upset by Moore’s comments about allowing students to carry firearms on campus.
“I want people to know that this just doesn’t go away, and it’s something that we are still feeling,” Campbell said. “We’re scared to return to class. I personally haven’t been able to go back into a classroom. I just feel terrified, and I don’t want to feel that way.”
Students who spoke to WRAL said they disagreed with Moore’s statements.
“Students in this generation are very self-aware,” said Kyle Lumsden,” a junior. “We know that this is preventable, so at this point, we are just pretty frustrated … I really want to call out to lawmakers in Raleigh to prioritize this issue and prioritize our lives.”
Democrats couldn’t believe Moore would suggest students be allowed to carry guns on campus and in classes.
“So more students at frat houses, and that are drinking alcohol and things of that sort, have more gun access?” asked House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Reives. “And that will make campus more safe? That’s his proposal?”
Another Democrat pointed out a massive fault in Moore’s argument.
“Absolutely fruitcake logic,” Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), wrote on social media. “Moore’s idea to end gun-free zones on campuses would have made it legal for the guy to have had the gun at UNC [on Sept. 13].”