A Long Island teen boarded a coach bus Tuesday for a road trip to a national gun-control rally in North Carolina with students from the Parkland, Florida, school where a mass shooting left 17 dead.
Avalon Fenster is the only Long Islander out of 14 metropolitan-area students taking the trip to attend a March for Our Lives rally Wednesday in Greensboro. The Dix Hills teen is a co-founder of the March for Our Lives Long Island chapter. She and her mother, Julia Fenster, are part of a national push for stricter gun control that formed after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Teacher Scott Beigel, who grew up in Dix Hills, was fatally shot while trying to save his students.
Fenster, 16, says she's in favor of the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms. But she wants the country to enact laws she believes would help avert future mass shootings, including a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, mandatory background checks for all firearms purchases and raising the minimum age to buy a gun.
“With all of these restrictions and all of these reforms, we are still respecting your right to a Second Amendment, but we want to make sure that you and your family are safe if you have possession of a gun," she said.
Avalon, a rising junior at the Stony Brook School who wore a #NeverAgain pin on her denim jacket, added: “That means that you and your family are safe from those who shouldn't have guns in their hands but do."
The National Rifle Association, a strong advocate for the Second Amendment, did not return a message Tuesday night seeking comment.
Fenster said March for Our Lives has been registering young people to vote.
“It's not just about the gun itself,” she said as students’ luggage was loaded onto the bus in Staten Island, “but it’s about the bigger conversation we need to have about the way we address issues like gun-violence prevention in America.”
The tour, which will return Thursday night, costs between $9,000 and $10,000, paid for ultimately by the State of New York, according to Melissa Murphy, assistant director of College of Staten Island’s Liberty Partnerships Program, the trip’s sponsor. Students and chaperones attend free.
A three-member documentary film crew for TV reporter Katie Couric is aboard the bus, joining the 14 students from around the metropolitan area.