Vox Populi and Kidz Voice-LA work to combat gun violence by engaging youth in the political process and endowing them with a sense of civic responsibility to become valuable contributors to society. We have testified before legislative hearings, organized rallies, interviewed with the media, spoken at conferences, and published opinion pieces and essays in a variety of publications including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times UpFront, and the Los Angeles Daily News. Our work has taken us from some of the most troubled streets in Los Angeles to the Oval Office of the White House, where President Clinton honored our work with the President's Service Award.
Growing up in my quiet hillside community, I had never been exposed to the damaging effects that a single bullet could have on so many lives. I slept in my bed while other kids slept in bathtubs to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. I bled from paper cuts while others bled from gunshot wounds. I dodged water balloons while others dodged bullets.
My perspective was shattered two bank robbers wielding assault rifles terrorized my community in a forty-five minute standoff with police in North Hollywood. Schools were placed on lockdown, storefronts were shattered, and fourteen victims were wounded in a community devastated by violence. As school shootings began to erupt across the country, I decided that I could not simply stand by as other kids my age gunned down their fellow classmates.
My organization has successfully encouraged lawmakers to propose and pass violence prevention legislation and succeeded in raising awareness about the dangers of gun violence. When we were 11 years old, my brother and I circulated a children's petition calling for a ban on the sale of gun ammunition in the City of Los Angeles. After collecting 7000 signatures, I successfully encouraged the Los Angeles City Council to introduce the proposal. The ammunition ban gained the support of the Los Angeles Police Chief, the Board of Police Commissioners, and the Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee before it fell just three votes short of passing by the full City Council.
Undaunted by this setback, I continued my work, proposing and lobbying for other initiatives in Los Angeles including a ban on .50-caliber sniper rifles and a resolution supporting the renewal of the federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004. Both of these initiatives were passed with wide-ranging support by the Council. In 2003, I testified before the California State Senate Education Committee in favor of a bill encouraging California high schools to incorporate gun violence prevention education into their health classes. My testimony helped persuade the committee to pass the initiative, and the bill passed the state legislature before it was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In 2006 my organization initiated a proposal before the Los Angeles City Council and the West Hollywood City Council requiring warning labels documenting the risks of keeping a gun in the home be placed on sales receipts and in storefronts. I have also approached individual school districts to incorporate gun violence prevention education into their health curricula to bring this much-needed information into our classrooms.
I have also endeavored to increase awareness concerning the plight of gun violence ravaging our communities. I have co-authored op-ed pieces and essays that have been published in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times UpFront, and the Los Angeles Daily News. To inform students and adults about the dangers of gun violence, my work has been featured on CNN, the CBS Early Show, the Tavis Smiley Show, in other local network stations and in publications like Teen People, PARADE magazine, Teen Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. My brother and I have spoken at many conferences and rallies including the UNESCO/Disney Children’s World Summit, the Roots and Shoots Peace Day celebration with Dr. Jane Goodall, and President Bush’s White House Conference on School Safety, where I asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during a panel presentation what steps Congress and the Bush administration would take to halt the proliferation of these weapons on our soil.