Last week I was fortunate to stand alongside public officials and celebrities in Washington, D.C, while we all demanded a plan to end gun violence in this country.
I was invited to speak at the news conference and join in meetings with congressional staffers after I participated with teens from South and East Los Angeles last month to produce a public service announcement inspired by celebrities’ “Demand a Plan” video.
The video was in response to the Newtown, Conn. tragedy where 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School. With the help of the California Endowment, youth came together to express their opinions, demanding more than just gun reform, and pleading for more counselors, and community support, among other things.
All of the speakers were excellent, and I was very blessed to hear Martin Luther King lll, and Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter speak at the event, which was sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Mark Thompson, a congressman from California is leading the pack to end gun violence, which pleases me because he is trying to do something that actually saves lives.
It means a lot to me to represent the youth voice, which I believe is a crucial element to the conversation. At the end of the press conference, I was interviewed by Mundo Fox. It is also important to me to know that the media takes the youth voice seriously.
I also had the privilege to speak with Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, who represents the 32nd District of California. She works hard to represent her constituents. I personally learned a lot from her, and it gives me hope knowing there are public officials like her working tirelessly to improve the way Americans live.
Being in Washington, D.C. was such a terrific experience. I didn’t take this trip for granted, because I know many people might never get a chance to even step foot in D.C. While I believe in the Right to Bear Arms, and understand that if we lose the second amendment other amendments may be attacked, I strongly believe that guns should be regulated. This should include the types of firearms available for purchase, and the prevention of those with bad records from getting guns.
Touring the Capitol was an awesome adventure, as I learned more about our nation’s history. I was one door away from the Vice President himself, and I sat in his meeting room with his staff and discussed his policy and how it affects my community. I also visited congressional offices, including the office of Nancy Pelosi. She was away at the time, but her staff was willing to listen to what we had to say.
Overall, the trip has provided me with new insight on how government functions. I believe that in terms of gun violence, an increased number of counselors, instead of a bigger police presence can create a safer environment for students. An atmosphere with increased counselor support would provide a healthy environment for young adults who are still growing and developing.
As we all know, when communities are safe, schools are safe.
Luis Melchor is an 18-year-old resident of Boyle Heights. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and is currently attending East Los Angeles Community College, while pursuing a transfer to Occidental College. For years, Luis has held a passion for politics and he hopes to one day hold a position of public service. Luis has been active in his commnity, especially as part of the Youth & Government program at the Weinagrt East Los Angeles YMCA.