Students Lie Down to Stand Up for What's Right


Students Lie Down to Stand Up for What's Right


published: May 01 2008 06:01 PM updated:: May 01 2008 06:15 PM

University of Tennessee students who took their usual walk to their midday classes on April 16th, may have encountered a strange sight: 32 students dressed in all black laying down on pedestrian walkway. This 'lie down' was organized in remembrance of the victims of last years Virginia Tech school shooting as well as to protest easy gun laws.

The Virginia Tech massacre was the deadliest mass shooting to date, and consisted of two separate attacks approximately two hours apart on April 16, 2007, which took place on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia. The gunman, Seung-Hui Cho ended his shooting rampage by committing suicide.

Jesse Matton, a UT sophomore from Northern Virginia organized the event. She extended invitations to people she knew and made a facebook group to advertise the event. She states: "I did it because I really wanted people to remember the victims and how much it effected all the students at tech." She recruited 32 participants, one to represent each victim of the Virginia tech shooting, for a three-minute lie down in the middle of the public walkway. She says, "We laid down for three minutes because that is the amount of time it takes to buy a gun in the U.S"

Matton's desire to organize this event came largely from the death of her friend, Reema Samaha, a victim of the Virginia Tech school shooting. A participant of the lie down, Sondra Ortagus, also a sophomore at UT and a long time friend of Matton says: "It was a very hard thing to look back on. I am glad we did it because hopefully people will start to realize that guns are too easy to get nowadays. Laws should be tighter so that incidences like Virginia Tech don't happen again."

Despite the many easy gun laws that are still being protested, the VT school shooting did lead to some tightening of gun regulations. The massacre led to rapid changes in Virginia law that had allowed Cho to illegally purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Furthermore. It prompted the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years. President, George W. Bush, signed a law that strengthens the NICS on January 5, 2008.

One of the outstanding issues with gun control laws is the gap between state gun laws and federal gun laws. In Virginia for example, one can legally purchase one handgun every 30 days with valid proof of residency. A 1968 federal law prohibits those considered "mentally unsound" from buying handguns. Cho, having been declared a danger to himself by a court in 2005, did not meet this condition of mental stability and should not have been able to obtain the two semi-automatic pistols he used in the massacre. The state of Virginia failed to report Cho's mental health to the federally mandated NICS demonstrating an error in the system. Virginia Governor, Timothy Kaine, addressed this issue on April 30th declaring the importance of closing this reporting gap.

Discussion still rages about US gun laws in all states. The strength of background checks is in question as well as states ability to regulate gun laws successfully.

Further discussion is geared towards school safety in light of the presence of a handgun on Virginia Techs campus, which prohibits weapons. Of the 16 states that currently ban guns on college campuses, Several are weighing legislation to allow gun permit holders to carry concealed firearms. In March of 2008, so shortly after the terrible tragedy at VT Delegate Gilbert of Virginia attempted to pass a law allowing for concealed carry on college campuses.

This demonstrates that the fight for tighter gun laws is far from over, according to Matton, it is just beginning.


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Tennessee Journalist




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




Tennessee Journalist, “Students Lie Down to Stand Up for What&#39;s Right,” The April 16 Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,