Ines Nix, a rising junior at John Jay High School, could have chosen to stay on the sidelines on the issue of gun violence, particularly in schools, and its disproportionate impact on Black communities.
Instead, she formed a group, the Westchester chapter of Students Demand Action, to help press for changes aimed at reducing gun violence.
Students Demand Action Westchester is part of the national nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety that, according to their website (everytown.org), works with leaders in gun violence prevention to bring research, advocacy and grassroots organizing to all communities.
Ines began the Westchester chapter in 2019 after contacting the national committee.
She was joined by friends from John Jay High School and from her diving team in New Canaan, Connecticut.
She also received support from family members. Her mother offered to be the group advisor, while her older sister, Simone, who attends the University of Miami, joined as a member.
“It’s really important to form a group of other passionate young students and raise awareness about the prevalence of gun violence and hopefully cause some sensible gun legislation in the future,” Ines said recently in an interview.
Ines and the parent organization, Students Demand Action, advocate for legislation that expands background checks, disarms domestic abusers, strengthens gun industry accountability and increases funding for gun-violence research.
The coronavirus restrictions have forced Ines to pause much of her group’s work, at least for now. In the meantime, she has participated in virtual events with other Students Demand Action chapters and has been holding weekly virtual meetings with the parent organization to discuss ways to build awareness of the central issues around gun violence.
Her chapter has started to use Instagram (@StudentsDemandWNY) to spread news about petitions, how to contact local politicians and share general information about gun violence and the effects it has on marginalized communities.
Ines said in recent months she and her sister, who has been living at home during the pandemic, have been doing most of the hands-on work needed to run the chapter.
“We do need more people to join us,” Ines said.
Another goal is to make Students Demand Action Westchester an official club at John Jay. For that to happen, she explained, more adults will need to actively support the club’s mission and activities. At the same time, the group is looking for a new adult sponsor because her mother has other time commitments.
Ines is hoping to build a larger team for the organization over the summer, adding that she hopes to “assign roles and begin planning at least one big fall activity before the vote, maybe coordinating with the local libraries to hear candidates speak,” she said.
In the future, as the organization grows, Ines wants to expand its activities. For example, she would like the group to organize town hall meetings with candidates before elections, publish the positions of local candidates on gun-related policies, and hold benefit concerts and other events to increase voter registration.
In addition, each year members of the organization are invited to attend Gun Sense University in Washington, D.C., to meet politicians, organizers, researchers and legal experts on the issues around gun violence.
“I am passionate about stopping the senseless gun violence,” Ines said. “Sensible legislation is possible, but we need to elect people who believe in some basic controls. Our organization can really make a difference if we get people involved.”