Flags placed on campus to bring awareness to gun incidents

Alma senior Jackie Smith, the Vice President of the College Democrats, plants flags along the sidewalk in the Fabiano Botanical Gardens on Feb. 22. The orange flags are to raise awareness about gun safety following the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14.

Approximately 60 orange paper flags lined the sidewalk next to Fabiano Botanical Garden on Feb. 22 to signify the number of gun-related incidents that occur each year in America. 

Planted by three members of Central Michigan University's College Democrats Association -- Alma senior Jackie Smith, Bay City freshman Ashlyn Pinter and Texas freshman Mina Perez --the flags were inspired by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. 

“We wanted to bring attention to the really big issue surrounding gun violence in this country,” Smith said. 

Each of the 60 flags represents a gun-related incident that could occur over the course of a year. According to numbers from the years 2012 to 2018, there are about five incidents per month, Smith said. 

“We’re just looking to show that in a year there could be up to 60 mass shootings,” Smith said. “And several people typically die throughout those. Mass shootings happen everywhere, and they happen at times when they're not expected.”

The orange color of the flags was chosen intentionally, as it signifies gun safety. 

“If you go out hunting you wear orange vests, so people don’t shoot you,” Smith said. “So, it’s become the color of the movement.”

Recognizing that Americans have the right to bare arms in the second amendment, Smith pointed out those laws were written at a time when guns themselves were very different. 

“I think once society realizes the lives of children are at risk, that means that some type of change needs to happen,” Smith said. “And that doesn’t mean repealing the second amendment. That means creating more reform to make it safer for children to go to school and feel safe in their communities.”

For Pinter, the issue hits closer to home because her father is a teacher at Bay City Western High School, and her siblings go to school. 

“It’s just kind of scary knowing you’re putting your life in danger just by going to school,” Pinter said. 

“School should be the number one place where you feel safe in the world, and kids are no longer feeling that way,” Smith said. 

The College Democrats Association plans to take part in upcoming national marches and public demonstrations to continue their advocacy, Smith said. The group meets at 8 p.m. Wednesdays in Anspach 167. 

Smith encourages individuals who want to see change to contact local and state legislatures and advocate for gun reform, and get involved in community demonstrations. She believes that especially in smaller counties like Isabella, change is truly possible. 

“If you don’t tell them what you want, how are they supposed to represent you,” Smith said in regard to legislators.