Lewis Community Reacts to V.P. Kamala Harris’ Visit

Lewis students and staff attending Vice President Kamala Harris’ speech shared concerns regarding gun safety and hoped for government action.


Donnie Biggs

Lewis senior Jada Hughes (right) delivered the speech introducing Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday, June 2.

Saad Ali, Staff Writer

On Friday, June 2, 2023, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Vice President Kamala Harris joined addressed the Lewis community in the main gym to discuss plans to limit gun violence. This address shows her commitment towards preventing gun violence, which has harmed American communities across the nation for years now.

Several students attended in order to hear VP Harris’s speech. Additionally, there were guest speakers, such as Miguel Cardona (US Secretary of Education), Michel Reid (Fairfax County Superintendent), Angela Ferrell-Zabala (Executive Director of Moms), and Dick Sawslaw (Majority Leader of the Virginia Senate), who further enriched the event with their diverse perspectives on the subject.

Gun violence has been a problem for a very long time now and the alarming truth is that it continues to grow. There have been many recent events such as school shootings in Uvalde Texas, UVA, and Virginia Tech, in which many innocent students have lost their lives and have shaken up communities across the nation. School environments should be safe for students and teachers to learn and teach. These recent incidents not only result in the loss of young students but also have a significant effect on teachers, students, and parents as a whole. Gun control measures are needed to protect children in school and outside of school.

Preparation for the event was sophisticated. School Resource Officer Chris Barr played a role in preparing the event, helping with traffic and communicating with law enforcement.

“I was directing traffic for the event for Vice President Kamala Harris. I was one of the liaisons between school and the federal police/secret service.  [It’s] not uncommon for Federal Police to plan with local law enforcement since the police are at the school every day and know the layout of the school and potential issues, ” Barr said.

As Harris took the podium, she gave a powerful speech on gun violence and its impact on the nation.

“Every person and every child deserves the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and live up to their God-given potential. Every family, in every community, should have the freedom to live and thrive and we know none of that is possible, true freedom is not possible if people are not safe. Everyone should be able to shop in a grocery store, lockdown the street or even sit in a classroom and know that they will be safe from fear and from violence,” Harris said.

Harris painted a real picture of society today, describing it as, “… a shame that in our country today, teachers have to start the school year introducing and instructing a child on how to barricade the classroom door. That kindergarten students practice lockdown drills and rehearse how to turn off the lights and hide quietly in a closet and that just last year, students at this school, and thousands of others around the nation, had to walk out of class simply to demand action, to save lives.”

It is unbelievable that kindergarteners today have to practice lockdowns because children should focus on school rather than school shootings.

Sophomore Kenzy El-Swady attended the event and believes that it’s important to have a safe learning environment for all. “It’s important to have gun control rules in school because it allows students and teachers to feel safe in an environment where they will be in the majority of their lives and it will allow them to perform their best,” El-Swady said.

Sophomore Sofia Himko, who also attended the event, similarly feels that schools should only be a place where students learn. “I think kids should be able to feel safe in school. Schools are a place where kids should just get taught and learn and that’s really all. It shouldn’t be a place where we should be in fear of shootings that can happen anytime,” said Himko.

Both El-Swady and Himko were pleased to know that President Biden’s administration is pushing for gun regulations.

“Gun violence is a serious problem in America. Vice President Harris’s visit was important to me because I wanted to learn about her takes on gun control and what her goals are to help prevent school shootings in America,” El-Swady said.

Himko hopes that the event at Lewis will inspire changes. “The Vice President and other guest speakers’ visit was really inspiring and helped all the students realize that we can count on them to make changes on gun control regulations, so we can stay safe in and out of school,” Himko said.

El-Swady found VP Harris’ speeches ending as a powerful one. “One of the most important and powerful messages that stuck out to me was when VP Harris said, ‘We hear you, we support you, and we need you’. I found that powerful because it showed me how dedicated they are in trying to help get gun violence out of schools, how much support we have and also to keep the schools, and nation and everyone else in it safe,” said El-Swady.

Officer Barr wants to give students advice on the importance of speaking up when they witness something wrong or potentially dangerous.

“I wish students would ‘say something when they see something’ that they know isn’t right! There is an unwritten rule among high school students that they don’t want to be labeled a ‘snitch.’  What if telling an adult something could save lives? In my mind the label of a ‘snitch’ doesn’t bother me if I could potentially save lives.  There are numerous ways for adults to speak to a student about a potentially serious issue without having to use their name in public,” Barr said.

Gun violence remains a serious issue but with the help of everyone, we can unite and collectively combat this challenge as a nation, so we can ensure a safer environment for all in the future. Some of the most effective measures we can do as a nation are to require background checks for all gun purchases, strengthen gun laws, and support gun violence prevention programs.

Before her departure, VP Harris emphasized the need for action: “And so together we must fight, and when we fight, we win! ” Let us forge a path for a brighter tomorrow, where the darkness of gun violence is pushed away by the unwavering strength of our unity and compassion.