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Months after UNLV shooting, student-protesters decry gun violence, ‘inaction’

Updated May 22, 2024 - 11:24 am

A coalition of UNLV students and community organizers decried gun violence Tuesday morning near the site of a campus shooting that killed three professors in December.

“Today we are here not to recount that dark day,” said Imer Cespedes-Alvarado, founder of the Youth Voice of Nevada, which organized the event.

“Instead, we stand before you to bring on the courage to demand accountability and asserted action from our elected officials,” said the 21-year-old student.

Standing in Pida Plaza on Tuesday, Cespedes-Alvarado said that on Dec. 6 he had to shelter at UNLV’s Student Union after a gunman opened fire in the business school next door.

The group of about 20 people held signs criticizing Gov. Joe Lombardo for what they said was his failure of advancing gun control laws he vetoed during the last legislative session.

Lombardo, whom the group referred to as “Gunbardo,” vetoed a trio of bills that would prohibit a person younger than 21 from possessing semiautomatic long guns.

One of the bills would have barred a person with a gun within 100 feet of an election site, and another aimed to prohibit gun possession from persons convicted of committing or attempting to commit a violent hate crime within a decade.

Elizabeth Ray, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, responded to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s request for comment.

“Governor Lombardo is working to address public safety concerns through the enforcement of his Crime Reduction Act, while simultaneously calling on prosecutors to robustly enforce existing gun laws to stop gun violence,” she said in an email statement. “The Governor also requested $2.6 million in supplemental on-site security funding for UNLV, which was approved by IFC and will be funded through December of this year.”

Student voices

Student Zena Hajii with Youth Voice of Nevada, said she was hosting a political science club gathering at the Student Union to discuss civic engagement when gunshots erupted in December.

Las Vegas police said Anthony Polito, 67, died in a shootout with school police outside the business school after he shot four professors, killing three of them.

“I sat in a dark room in the Student Union with my peers not knowing if Dec. 6 would be my last day on this earth,” Hajii said. “I am just one of the many examples of what that day did to other students, of what that day did to families and what that day did to our campus.”

The group is trying to persuade young voters to get involved in local and state politics, particularly during November’s election.

“If you thought you wouldn’t vote this year, do not let this circus show of a presidential race stop you from focusing on what’s important,” Hajii said. “Do not just vote blue or red this year, use your ears and hear these candidates talk, use your eyes to evaluate their honestly and use your brain to swap in your voice.”

Tuesday’s event came three days after someone unaffiliated with UNLV was shot in a university parking garage across campus. The victim was treated and released from a hospital, officials said.

UNLV English major Patrice Boyd is the president of the university’s Black Student Organization.

“Politicians are here bright and early when the cameras are out, begging for our votes,” she said. “But in our time of need, behind closed doors, where are they?”

Boyd said young people have the power to vote for change, and that if it didn’t work, billions of dollars wouldn’t be spent during election cycles.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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