“We need to build a statewide coalition,” she said. “We need people in place not just in Atlanta but all over the state who know how to advocate.”
Rep. El-Mahdi Holly, D-Stockbridge, echoed many of the same sentiments.
“Even if you’re too young to vote, you can have influence over your parents and other adult voters,” he said.
Former lobbyist Larry Pellegrini also spoke to the several dozen people assembled.
“Before I’d been to the capital I thought it was much more orderly than it really is,” he said. “In my 30 years of working on gun violence prevention, I’ve learned to navigate the system.”
Questions about dress and etiquette proved that the students are serious about affecting change.
The recent suicides of two survivors of the school shooting in Parkland were also on the minds of attendees.
“Three days of inviting counselors and service dogs to a school is not enough, especially after a mass shooting like what happened in Parkland,” said Nurah Abdulhaqq, a MFOL member who had a family member killed by gun violence when she was 12. “I don’t think the problem is that we don’t have counselors, I think it’s that we don’t have enough access to mental health. ... Students don’t have enough access to mental health care and survivor’s guilt is very real.”
Jeff Binkley’s daughter Maura was a victim of the November mass shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee. He sponsored the gathering by offering his church for the event.
“We’re just encouraged to see these young people being proactive and from the context of a survivor, we live our lives like Maura would have wanted,” he said. “The unity here is reflective of who she was.”