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Monday, March 12, 2018

‘We deserve better:’ 17-year-old activist joins legislators calling for gun control laws

PHOENIX – High-school student Jordan Harb, flanked by Arizona lawmakers and a representative for the state school board, delivered a gun-control message on Monday: “We want our lives taken into account.”

Harb, a junior at Mountain View High School in Mesa, urged the Arizona Legislature to instill gun control measures in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 students and faculty.

As Harb spoke at a news conference at the Capitol, supporters wielded signs, “We Deserve Better.” Rep. Randy Friese and Rep. Daniel Hernandez, both Tucson Democrats, Allie Bones of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and Lawrence Robinson, president-elect of the Arizona School Boards Association were among those at the news conference.

The Republican-led Legislature, noted for its gun rights stance, has stymied Democratic efforts to pass gun control laws, deeming them unnecessary, even as the conservative Florida Legislature recently raised the legal age for gun purchases to 21 and decided to arm some teachers.

Hernandez, who was a 20-year-old intern for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 when she was shot in the head in a mass shooting in a Safeway parking lot in 2011, spoke of holding Giffords’ head after she was shot.

“We deserve better,” Hernandez said. “No child should have to go to school in fear that at any moment they may be shot for merely going to school. No person should have to go to a grocery store and fear that at any moment they could be shot.”

Hernandez and others called for more mental health funds and universal background checks to prevent certain people, such as those with serious mental illness or a history of domestic violence, from buying guns.

Friese, a trauma surgeon who treated Giffords and other victims of the shooting, has made gun control one of his main issues.

Friese said his work brings an intimate understanding of gun violence.

“I see their families, I have to tell them their loved ones passed away,” Friese said. “It’s a difficult thing to do, especially when we shouldn’t have to.”

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He said he thinks change is coming in the wake of the Parkland shooting as teenagers across the country organize to push for gun control.

“I’m disappointed that it takes school shooting after school shooting to get here but I’m also grateful that we’re at a point where we’re making progress,” Friese said.

Speakers at the conference also called on constituents to join the movement for gun control, either by participating in marches or making phone calls to legislators to make their views known.

Harb urged Arizonans to reach out to legislators and “demand that our lives be put first.”

He also extended an open invitation for people to join him and other high school students at the Capitol on Wednesday as they participate in a national day of action for gun control. Students at some schools in Flagstaff, Tucson, the Phoenix metro area and elsewhere also are planning marches and public discussions .

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