A high school senior has gone viral for turning her graduation cap into a statement against gun violence.
Gina Warren is an 18-year-old student in Ashville, Ohio. Like most high school seniors, she was proud to have made it to her graduation, but she couldn’t help but think of all of the students who didn’t get to graduate because their lives were stolen by guns.
Gina decided to turn her graduation cap into a QR code. When scanned, the code takes you to a list of victims of high school shootings from 1999 to 2019.
“I graduated. These high school students couldn’t,” the list says.
Since last year’s shooting of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, there have been over 30 additional shootings at K-12 schools, per CNN. In other words, there is an average of one school shooting every 11.8 days.
This climate of gun violence deeply affects students, even if they’ve never had to live through it directly.
Gina hopes her graduation cap will bring awareness to the scale of the problem. No student should have to worry about making it to graduation alive.
“These students live lives exactly like mine, exactly like all of my classmates,” Gina told BuzzFeed News. “This problem can happen anywhere. I’m going to keep fighting.”
It’s graduation season, which means high school and college graduates all over the country are sharing their clever graduation cap designs on social media.
Many of these graduation caps are cheeky. They use puns and references to pop culture…
Or they incorporate popular memes from the previous year, like this cap that incorporates a SpongeBob meme.
Other graduation caps are more emotionally meaningful to the student. They might thank family members or include an inspirational message for the future.
But some students take the opportunity to make a strong statement.
Gina Warren is an 18-year-old student in Ashville, Ohio. She decorated her graduation cap with a QR code, which when scanned displays a list of school shooting victims.
The list spans all the way from the 1999 shooting at Columbine to the STEM school shooting in May 2019.
Gina says she was inspired by the Parkland shooting survivors. Last year, they painted their graduation caps orange and included a price tag to represent how much each student was worth to Republican Senator Marco Rubio based on how much money he had received from the NRA.
“I wanted to make something just as powerful as a statement, but rather than direct it to lawmakers or the NRA, I wanted to direct it to everyone who will see it,” Gina explained to BuzzFeed News.
Gina used statistics from Everytown, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, to compile the list. She says she was stunned by how “incredibly long” the list turned out to be.
“That was so heartbreaking,” she said.
And her list doesn’t even fully reflect the extent of gun violence in the US.
“The names I included on my cap were just the ones killed because of a shooting that happened at a [high] school,” Gina explained. “It doesn’t include kids who won’t be able to graduate because of a shooting at a movie theater or church.”
It also doesn’t include students killed in elementary or middle schools.
People were moved by Gina’s graduation cap design. Some individuals who were directly affected by these shootings listed reached out to Gina to thank her for remembering what happened.
“Thank you for including the Santa Fe victims,” one person wrote. “My hometown is Santa Fe, Texas and I’m glad you remember them because so many don’t.”
Other people sent Gina other names of gun violence victims that may not have been in the national database. She added these names to the list.
Gina says she doesn’t have a particular political agenda — she just wants to honor these victims and raise awareness of how bad the problem really is.
“I hope anyone who sees how many names there are would think there is a problem,” she said.
“I’m not telling you how you should vote or what you should think — I’m telling you there’s a problem,” Gina said. “Whatever you think could make our country safer, you need to have a voice about it.”
The dead aren’t the only victims of school shootings. Students everywhere now have to think about this danger on a daily basis, and as Gina’s graduation cap shows, they’re sick and tired of it.
“High school graduations should be a time for celebration, but unfortunately, with each shooting, we’re reminded of the students whose lives were taken, who didn’t make it to their graduation,” explained Taylor King, a member of the advisory board of Students Demand Action, a part of Everytown. “Students are speaking out because we’ve had enough and we know there’s more we can do to end gun violence.”