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

“Our legislators and the governor need to know we will no longer be ignored,” Jordan Harb, a high school junior and student organizer from Mesa, told a news conference Monday on the Capitol lawn. Harb called for policies to address gun violence in the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida school. (Photo by Jenna Miller/Cronkite News)

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 Legislature to enact gun control measures in the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 students and faculty members.

As Harb spoke at a news conference at the Capitol, supporters wielded signs reading “We Deserve Better.” Reps. Randy Friese and 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 in attendance.

The Republican-dominated Legislature, noted for its pro gun 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 authorized arming some teachers.

Hernandez, who was a 20-year-old intern for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 when she was gravely wounded by a lone gunman, spoke of holding Giffords’ head after she was shot while meeting constituents in a Safeway parking lot near Tucson.

“We deserve better,” he 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, which killed a federal judge and five other people, has made gun control one of his main issues.

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 news 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 area and elsewhere also are planning marches and public discussions.

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