On Thursday, May 3, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Dr. Kim Oliver’s History of Social Welfare course will be hosting an event entitled “Stop Gun Violence Now” in the Dogwoods Room, located in the John A. Barone Campus Center. This event will take place as the class’ final examination and will focus on recent tragedies and school shootings that took place in the U.S. due to gun violence with the hopes of raising Fairfield University’s awareness.

As a class, Dr. Oliver’s students reached out to different foundations, local legislators, all of Fairfield University’s department chairs, the Department of Public Safety and Counseling and Psychological Services, who they believed would share in their mission of bringing awareness and change to society. According to Erin Byrne ’20, during Dr. Oliver’s class – shortly after the Parkland, Fla. Shooting – they discussed the many other mass shootings that occurred across the nation throughout the past few years.

“With all of the news coverage about shootings and gun violence, as a class we all believed that there needed to be more awareness and education on gun control,” said Byrne. “As a practicing social worker, Dr. Oliver holds very strong beliefs about bringing change in our present world, and what better way to do so than having an event on campus?”

During the History of Social Welfare course, students read and watch various articles and videos on current news and U.S. happenings, which led to proactive class discussions.

Senior Erin Monahan, who is also enrolled in Dr. Oliver’s History of Social Welfare course explained, “We really focused on the social worker’s role to advocate for social policy on the macro level, but what really inspired us to create this event and take our learning and action outside of the classroom was the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in February this year … As a class, we came to understand the social justice implications of the issue given that scores more of urban black women and men are killed by gun violence than white women and men. This is often overlooked by the popular news media.”

According to Byrne, Dr. Oliver has worked with many clients that were affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. “By bringing her experience to class, it inspired all of our class members to do something about this,” said Byrne. “We were especially inspired by the actions taken by the children and teenagers that have had first-hand experience with guns and mass shootings. As a class, we have decided it is important for our voices to be heard and that we can make a difference.”

Thursday’s event will include different tables set up to showcase: legislation, facts and statistics, raising awareness and fundraising. Additionally, the event will include different speakers including: The Department of Public Safety, Dr. Mark J. Celano Ph.D. and Dr. Patrick Kelley M.D., Ph.D., a distinguished fellow in nursing and health studies at Fairfield University.

Before coming to Fairfield in September 2016, Dr. Kelley spent 13 years directing global health programs at the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. As a senior board director at the NAS, Dr. Kelley founded a program called the Forum on Global Violence Prevention, which focused on public health approaches to preventing several types of interpersonal violence, including firearm-related violence.

Because of his background with NAS, Dr. Kelley was asked to lead a firearm-related project requested by President Obama. In January 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook shootings, President Obama directed a number of efforts to reduce the likelihood of such events in the future – one being for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reinstate a public health research program focused on firearm violence prevention. When President Obama asked CDC in January 2014 to reinstate research into this subject, CDC needed a research agenda. CDC and the CDC Foundation contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to develop the research agenda the President requested using an expert committee process, a process that Dr. Kelley was put in charge of. The study was completed and a report released in May 2014.

Dr. Kelley commented, “I plan to highlight what we know and what we don’t know about firearm-related violence in the U.S. Compared to the vast amount of information we know about preventing motor vehicle crash-related deaths, a problem of roughly the same magnitude as firearm-related deaths, we lack a tremendous amount of basic knowledge about matters such as the characteristics of firearm violence, the risk and protective factors, strategies to intervene, technologies to improve gun safety, and the effect of video games on violence.”

“As a class, I think we are all very excited to see the outcome of this event,” said Byrne. “Throughout the semester, we have learned that taking action is one of the most important things we can do as individuals to spark change … I think that by working together as a class, it has allowed us to see that we can organize an event to raise awareness to not only our class, but to the larger community as well.”

“I hope that awareness will be raised so that students and faculty from across the disciplines may be stimulated to expand their engagement,” said Dr. Kelley. “While advocacy through legislatures is important, solving this problem will involve more than that. Universities can play an important public health role to complement the role of law enforcement. At the foundation we need to have a more detailed epidemiologic, sociologic and psychologic understanding of the issue or we will be making policy through guess work.”

At the event, there will be informational orange lollipops with gun violence statistics distributed throughout the afternoon, and orange livestrong wristbands that say “#NeverAgain” and “Stop Gun Violence Now.” The class hopes to get donations of any amount from event participants for the wristbands, but donations are not mandatory. All donations will go to Sandy Hook Promise based in Newtown, CT.

“What I am most excited regarding “Stop Gun Violence Now” is its capacity to have an impact on the student body and educate them on the facts and policies of gun violence and gun violence prevention. I’m really excited to galvanize students, faculty and staff because education can be such a motivating factor for policy change,” said Monahan.

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