Miami students take on the gun debate in protest, new group


Photo by Viviana Selvaggi

Cutline: Speaker Kelly Gunnels Valines talking about her organization.

By Viviana Selvaggi

A rally against gun violence sponsored by Students Demand Action drew more than 30 demonstrators to Central Quad on Miami’s campus April 12.

Co-leaders Raquel Hirsch and Peren Tiemann, students at Miami, worked for months to hold the rally Wednesday, as Students Demand Action held rallies across the nation.

“We aren’t anti-gun, we are just pro-gun safety,” Hirsch said. “We are working for safer communities, and we really want to educate students on gun laws in Ohio.”

The group, founded by students in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, calls for state and federal gun control legislation and for universities to divest from gun makers.

At the rally, Kelly Gunnels Valines of Cincinnati said she started an anti-gun organization in memory of her brother, Reco, who was killed in 2017. She named the group R.E.C.O.: reveal evidence, confess the obvious, which, for her, means doing something about gun violence in America.   

“We had the rally to share the impacts of gun violence and how our university can help to make a difference,” Tiemann said. “We are reaching out to different organizations based around culture and identity and representing voices who were affected by gun violence.” 

Also in its first semester at Miami is the Gun Owners Foundation 2A Defenders, a subsidiary of the Gun Owners of America. 

“We are the first and only GOF chapter,” said Vice President Spencer Mandzak. “We build on experience levels for all students and educate on the Constitution.”

“We aren’t going to stand around saying ‘don’t take my guns!’” he continued. “We want to provide education for students about what owning guns is about.” 

The group focuses on safe gun use and opposes new legislation restricting gun ownership.

The group’s President Grant Balzer said he did not oppose Students Demand Action holding a rally. 

“I’m glad we are on a campus where we have free speech, being able to share both of our ideas. Go out and advocate. We are pro-First Amendment as well. I agree with having an open forum where people can speak freely and debate,” Balzer said.