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Nation’s first Gen Z congressman discusses gun violence at UNLV

UNLV students who survived the Dec.6, 2023 mass shooting pose with Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (third from left) under a mural reading “A Peaceful Place.” The students shared their experiences at a roundtable on Jan. 23, 2024 to discuss gun violence policy. (Credit: Camalot Todd/Nevada Current)

Camalot Todd, Nevada Current
January 24, 2024

Six weeks after the mass shooting that claimed the lives of three UNLV faculty members, a group of students gathered to share their experiences and highlight the need for more federal policy action.

“You don’t think it will happen to you until it does,” said Ketzia Jimenez, a third-year UNLV sociology student who was at the Student Union on Dec. 6 when an armed man shot four people who worked at adjacent Beam Hall, killing three of them.

Jimenez and other students shared their experience with U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla), who at 27, is the first Gen Z member of Congress, and also a gun violence survivor who was caught between two men who were shooting at each other during a downtown Orlando Halloween event in 2016. He visited Las Vegas Tuesday with the Biden-Harris campaign as part of National Gun Violence Survivors Week. 

“I feel like most of us know someone who has been affected by gun violence and I think that’s something a lot of people don’t understand about our generation. This is a very personal issue for most of us,” Mack Milan, a fourth-year student studying political science, said.

There have been 60 mass shootings in the U.S. since Dec. 6, according to the crowd-sourced database, the Mass Shooting Tracker. Frost highlighted the Biden Administration’s work on addressing gun violence, including the passage in 2022 of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Along with closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” and strengthening background check requirements, the legislation includes provisions that improve access to mental health services in schools to help young people deal with the trauma and grief resulting from gun violence, invests in community violence intervention programs, and attempts to curb gun trafficking via a straw purchase, or when an individual buys a gun for someone who can’t legally own one

The Biden Administration also created the nation’s first Office of Gun Violence Prevention in September 2023.

Frost noted that there is still more work to be done.

“We have to get universal background checks, but the problem is that Republicans in Congress don’t want it. Many of them are bought and sold by the NRA,” he said. 

Frost and the students also discussed the trauma and mental health impacts that mass shootings have on those who survived.

“You let yourself believe that you can be safe on your own campus,” Milan said. “It’s hard to reconcile with the feelings that it could be all over when you’re only 23 years old.” 

Carolyn Salvador Avila, a third-year student studying pre-law and public policy, was also on the UNLV campus that day, and in the aftermath of the shooting experienced nightmares.

“I get to the second floor of the Student Union. I was there for an event… the same event that a lot of people were at for civic engagement,” she said. “I don’t think people realized what was happening until they turned off the lights and locked the doors.”

She also remembers the shooter pulling on the doors. 

“We started freaking out, people started writing in their notebooks to say goodbye to their families. Some people were crying. Others were shushing people because we were afraid of getting caught,” she said.

Frost noted that another measure enacted during the Biden administration, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, included enhanced funding for school mental health counselors and other mental health services, including the  988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline services.

“For far too long we’ve been talking in this country about how we’re going to react to these shootings when they happen. I don’t know about you, but I want to talk about how we prevent these shootings from happening in the first place,” Frost said in an interview.

UNLV students Taylor Cummings, Natalia Jordan, and Miriam Lachica were also at the roundtable. UNLV classes resumed last week. 

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.