NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA - October 23 - Twelve years ago, a gun violence prevention advocate here began an effort to educate teens about the dangers of guns in schools and guns introduced into personal conflicts. Over the years, the “Student Pledge Against Gun Violence” has reached millions of young people.
Tragically, one of the student organizers of this year's campaign in Albuquerque died from gunfire on Friday - just five days before the annual “Day of National Concern about Young People and Gun Violence,” the culmination of each year's effort to get more young people involved.
Ryan Vigil, a 17-year-old student leader and promising third baseman for his high school baseball team, was shot in a car on October 19 by a man apparently enraged that Vigil and two friends had been involved in a prank, tossing golf balls out of the car, according to police. The principal of his high school, his baseball coach and his many friends have described him as a kind and peaceful young man. He was co-founder of a school club called Empower, which was dedicated to getting students to resolve conflicts peacefully and to sign the Pledge.
“I am deeply saddened by what happened last Friday, deeply saddened that his friends, family, and community have lost a caring and decent young man who was making such a contribution to his peers,” said Mary Lewis Grow, the Minnesota founder of the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence. “Ryan was clearly an ambassador of peace.”
Vigil's high-profile efforts to reduce violence give his death by gunfire a bitter irony. “There could be no greater tribute to Ryan in Albuquerque and in his state as a whole than for students there to commit themselves to the Pledge that he sought to publicize,” said Grow.
The Pledge reads:
“I will never bring a gun to school.
“I will never use a gun to settle a personal problem or dispute.
“I will use my influence with my friends to keep them from using guns to settle disputes.
“My individual choices and actions, when multiplied by those of young people throughout the country, will make a difference. Together, by honoring this pledge, we can reverse the violence and grow up in safety.”
In 1996, the United States Senate passed a resolution proclaiming the first Day of National Concern, followed by a Presidential Proclamation by President Bill Clinton. Since then, more than ten million young people have signed the pledge.
“National distribution of the Student Pledge sends a message that is essential if we are to reverse the tide of violence in this country: that violence is neither inevitable nor an abstract force against which we are powerless,” reads the mission statement of the Student Pledge. “Violence is, rather, the sum total of individual decisions, and reversing the violence will occur individual decision by individual decision.”
More information is available online at www.pledge.org.