Graduation season is typically a time of celebration — of first-generation college students and their parents, beaming with pride, of students who beat unbeatable odds to walk across the graduation stage, of mothers who didn't give up and of any student who worked tirelessly for four (or more) years to earn their degree.
But amid the pomp and circumstance, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is honoring those who never made it to their commencement ceremonies with a yearbook for students who lost their lives to gun violence before high school graduation. According to a press release, over 30,000 students in the United States fall into this category.
Anyone can sign the book at SignTheirYearbook.com, and the signatures, along with the yearbook itself, will later be delivered to Congress as an official petition for gun control legislation.
The organization is specifically calling for universal background checks, a regulation they say has been successful in New York. While New York is the fourth most populous state, they report, it has the fourth lowest gun death rate in the country.
In January, President Obama announced executive action on background checks, calling the lack of background checks a "gun control loophole."
"There are no words to describe the pain we live with every day," Oxsana Naumkin, whose son Nicholas was killed when his friend accidentally shot him, told NYAGV, according to the press release. Her son's death gave way to the eponymous "Nicholas's Law," which mandates safe gun storage. "No parent should ever have to experience this kind of loss and that is why it is so important that we stand together to prevent these senseless tragedies from happening over and over again."
She continued, "It is the duty of Congress to ensure the safety of children, their families and communities by strengthening our federal gun laws."