Anna Guyton and Calvin Ryerse
Calvin is something out of a renaissance painting. You know the Sistine Madonna, with the two little cherubs looking wistfully up at the Madonna? Picture one of those little angels as a highschooler in 2018. Now picture that cherub as an extremely intelligent documentary filmmaker with a special place in his heart for The Beatles and a general dislike of George Harrison’s solo career. That’s Calvin.
Calvin is a passionate, well spoken, and creative activist, with a particular passion for gun reform. The following interview has hardly been edited, as Calvin has a particular talent for communicating his thoughts oh so eloquently.
Anna: When and why did you first become passionate about gun reform?
Vin: I think that the first time a mass shooting really hit me was Sandy Hook. That was the first time that I felt the twinge of fear a lot of young people mention when talking about gun reform. Why is it that now I have to be scared to go to school? And then that was heightened by the Colorado movie theatre shooting. I can’t just go to a public place and enjoy myself. Fear doesn’t necessarily drive me, but those two shootings specifically caused an everyday fear.
Anna: One of the most powerful tweets I’ve ever read basically said that after Sandy Hook didn’t cause any legitimate change, there was no possibility of change in America. Once we decided that we’re okay with children being shot at school, what could possibly be the catalyst for reform?
Vin: The most emotional I’ve gotten after a shooting was after Sandy Hook. I distinctly remember coming home on a Friday afternoon and my parents telling me about it, I just broke down. I also remember watching Obama break down when addressing the nation.
Anna: The US owns nearly half of all civilian-owned guns in the world. And while the US makes up around 5% of the world’s population, we are responsible for 31% of global mass shooters. What is it about the United States?
Vin: I don’t understand how we, as a culture, have gotten to this point. It’s not my generations fault, or the generations before me’s fault. I think that we, as a country, grew out of violence, and because of that we romanticize it. We have an image of violence that just isn’t true, and it’s hammered into us from a young age. I think that it’s also the fact that we have access to ridiculous amounts of guns- extremely powerful guns- and if we were to stop that, we would see a decline in mass shootings.
Anna: Is there any way to isolate gun’s from the American identity?
Vin: I would like to say yes, however I think the answer is no. Guns are woven into the fabric of the American experiment. First off, America was built from nationalism and revolution. Those are our roots. And then there’s also the constitution, which puts together the US, and gives people the right to guns. That’s part of why this conversation is so difficult to have.
”Its a conversation that's between global minded people and nationalistic people.
Anna: The recent shooting in Parkland Florida sparked the March For Our Lives, the Never Again movement, and walkouts around the nation. What are your thoughts on these actions?
Vin: I think that they are needed, important, that the way that my school handled them is inappropriate and frustrating. The way all of the local schools handled it was frustrating. That clearly shows the divide between young people, who are just saying “We’re tired of being shot and seeing our friends get shot” and conservative rich white people who are unwilling or unable to listen to teenagers.
Anna: How effective, in your opinion, are these protests?
Vin: They are an effective form of action. Something that I’ve struggled with is the importance of protesting. And i’ve come to the conclusion that protests are vidal, and especially for young people who are unable to vote. Protests are the base of all political movements.
”Feeling the connection with the people around you marching is really important, as is getting your voice heard and joining your voice with others.
Anna: How do you think this movement differs from those of the past? Why is that?
Vin: Not everyone in our generation supports gun control, which is frustrating, although not surprising. A lot of teens don’t seem to care about politics, which is a symptom of the way American politics run in the modern era. Our generation is also learning that because we have so much access to information and technology, we’re able to not be ignorant as past generations. We have more of a choice about whether we want to be ignorant or not. You have google at your fingertips, it’s no longer a question of whether or not you have access to information. It’s a question of whether you’re willing to interact with that information. On top of that, all of this is happening to us.
Anna: I mean Columbine was around 1998, right before we were born. That means there’s never been a time in our lives without school shootings.
Vin: My entire life has been defined from 9/11 to Parkland. It’s a constant barrage of this unending violence. I’m sick of it.