Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Gabby Giffords ignite change in a dynamic roundtable on gun violence with student advocates

Photo credit: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

At a roundtable with former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and ex-House Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, students discussed pressing issues like gun violence and resilience. The urgency of the topics emphasized the need for proactive dialogue and decisive action from more than just individuals in Congress, calling on students to help fight for gun law reform.

Giffords is a living testament to resilience after surviving a gunshot to the head in 2011 at an “On Your Corner” constituent event in Tucson, Arizona; she had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.

At age 24, Powell lost her father to gun violence when he was shot and killed outside his home in Ecuador.

“It was that traumatic incident that changed our lives forever and led me and Giffords to continually fight for gun law reform in Congress,” said Powell.

As they joined forces in a roundtable discussion on Feb, 28th, there was a sense of urgency to share their mission to confront the alarming surge of gun violence in schools. Together they shared a compelling narrative of survival, advocacy and determination, binding these two women in a powerful partnership against a backdrop of societal unrest.

The Gun Safety Roundtable welcomed over 20 students and student organizations to listen and voice their concerns about the dangers of gun violence.

“I think this was a great way to start talking about gun safety on college campuses because I feel like it’s not talked about enough. This roundtable discussion is a first step in starting the conversation about gun violence at the University and what students at UM can do to help this cause,” said Karrington Lawson, a sophomore double majoring in political science and history.

Also in attendance were faculty members including political science professor and head of the UM Hanley Democracy Center, Dr. Gregory Koger, as well as members of the Young College Democrats at the University of Miami, who helped plan the roundtable.

Powell is currently running for a U.S. Senate seat against former Florida governor and current senator, Rick Scott, while Giffords runs an organization in her name dedicated to saving lives from gun violence.

Giffords and Powell also had the opportunity to ask the student guest speakers about their experiences with gun violence.

Powell asked Emily Dazinger, a junior political science student and finance intern for Powell’s ongoing Senate campaign, to describe how gun violence has affected growing up in their generation and culture.

“It comes down to something as simple as someone popping a bag in the cafeteria and everyone freezing and being subjected to monthly shooting drills,” Dazinger said. “”In addition, there’s the issue that, although you sometimes hug your parents good-bye before leaving for school, you never know if you’ll get to see them again because of tragedies like mass shootings.”

Powell asked the same question of Lawson.

“I am grateful to go to school every day because I know not every day is promised or guaranteed. I was in private school my whole life,” Lawson said. “And after the Marjory Stoneman Stoneman Douglas shooting in 2018, I remember having resource officers on campus, which made me question why schools can’t be a safe space for students to grow and learn anymore.”

Dazinger and Lawson’s comments were followed by a discussion among other students about what individuals like Powell and Giffords can do to help make students’ voices feel seen and heard surrounding the gun violence dilemma.

“Having student-led meetings and discussions with elected officials would help me and my peers feel seen, as we can discuss issues about gun violence together,” said Miguel Blas, a freshman computer science major.

“Listening to students’ voices and concerns by magnifying their voices,” were more common answers from many of the other students in the room who were in attendance.

Powell recommended that a way for students to help take part in their campus safety is to report anything that seems suspicious and let anyone know about any safety concerns they might have by using their voices.

Before the roundtable ended, Giffords wanted everyone in the room to leave with a powerful message that students could use when fighting for reform.

“Stay passionate, courageous and be your absolute best,” and to continue pushing for gun violence reform through the power of voting and informing other students on campus” said Giffords, as she explained to students that they should continue being resilient.

Visit the Giffords website and Powell’s website for more details on gun violence reform and events happening on and off campus.