Graduate student invited to White House for gun control activism


Hannah Geerlings

Peabody graduate student Allison Plattsmier joined the number of people passing through White House security on Oct. 7 as she met with three senior White House officials to discuss gun control. She was invited to the White House due to her involvement with the campaign, Guns Out.

Plattsmier became involved with gun control initiatives in response to safety issues around campus and calls for campus carry legislation. Since July 1, full-time employees at public universities in Tennessee have been allowed to carry a gun on campus, provided they notify the law enforcement agency responsible for the campus. Although Vanderbilt does not not need to comply with this law because it is a private institution, Plattsmier wanted to ensure Vanderbilt administration would not enact policies in a similar vein. After joining a Vanderbilt listserv, she began to receive e-mails about sexual assaults and armed robberies on campus and became concerned about safety at Vanderbilt, and how allowing guns on campus might worsen campus security.

“If campus carry legislation were to pass, it would only increase these problems,” Plattsmier said. “We could potentially see an increase in armed sexual assaults and crimes of passion. School should be a safe place for people to come and learn about their passion. Adding more guns to the situation will only make students more scared and it could really hinder their performance.”

Allison Plattsmier strikes the pose used in the "Guns Out" social media campaign in front of the White House
Allison Plattsmier strikes the pose used in the “Guns Out” social media campaign in front of the White House

In response, Plattsmier decided to take action in the form of a social media campaign to draw attention to the issue of campus carry legislation. She was involved with a petition against extending campus carry laws to Vanderbilt, and she delivered the list of names of the 81 people involved with the petition to Chancellor Zeppos. She took this initiative on Vanderbilt’s campus as part of the “Guns Out” campaign through The DoSomething organization aims to encourage activism among young people by giving them a platform to lead campaigns for causes they care about.

Plattsmier stressed the importance of gun control in this election.

“We should not live in a society where gun violence is commonplace and we are too afraid to do anything about it for fear of infringing on the Second Amendment,” she said. “There must be compromise and there must be a way to ensure that violent criminals, people with a history of violence, cannot obtain a weapon by any means. Whether this is by implementing smart technology or stricter requirements in order to purchase a gun, there must be a middle-ground.”

Plattsmier’s involvement in this campaign led to her being chosen as one of 11 student activists to travel to the White House, along with three representatives from DoSomething. They met in the Roosevelt Room to discuss campus carry legislation with Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Paulette Aniskoff, Senior Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement and Senior Policy Advisor Bess Evans and Senior Associate Director of Public Engagement and Senior Policy Advisor Kyle Lierman.

“I learned so much about the ability of youth to organize,” Plattsmier said of her visit. “I believe so many youth feel that their voice doesn’t matter and they can’t make impactful change but our group has eliminated that misconception. I also realized that there is so much more I could be doing with regards to this issue and I was inspired by all of the work that is being done around the nation.”

Moving forward, Plattsmier already has plans for continued involvement on campus initiatives about this issue. She has been appointed to the Community-Oriented Results and Expectations committee, a group that will make recommendations to the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) about how best to promote safety and security on campus. She has also worked with Dean Bandas and the VUPD to provide greater education about campus safety resources, including a law enforcement appreciation event at the end of October.

“I hoped that by making students feel more safe by educating them about the resources available to them, we could curtail the argument that we need more guns to ensure our safety,” Plattsmier said.