Along with 3,000 other California teens, eight Santa Clarita Valley students traveled to Sacramento recently to get a firsthand experience of the state’s legislative process and present a bill local students prepared following the Saugus High School shooting.
The Model Legislature and Court event offered students from the SCV YMCA’s Youth and Government program and several other YMCA delegations a chance to partake in a mock democratic process by taking on roles, such as senators and Assembly members, to discuss bills on the docket and participate in court cases.
While some of the students have participated in the past, this year was a new experience, according to program director Rebecca Kelly.
“This year was really different. I think everyone was kind of more of a family because of what happened out here,” she said, referring to the deadly Saugus High shooting that killed three teenagers, including the attacker, and wounded three others. “They all grew very close and were all on board with working together on a bill.”
The students’ original plan was to propose a bill on maternity leave, for which they had already conducted extensive research, but all of that changed after the shooting.
“We had a totally different bill that we were going to bring to Sacramento that we had been working on for weeks and then that’s when everything happened at Saugus,” said Kelly. “We didn’t meet for a week after that and then we met and the students shared their stories and everyone was passionate about doing this new bill.”
The students went back to the drawing board to write legislation on ghost guns in hopes of passing their bill through the model legislation that would prohibit weapons like the one used during the Nov. 14 Saugus High shooting.
The bill failed to pass but the students learned a lot along the way, according to Aara Nanavaty, a Sierra Canyon High School student and president of the SCV chapter, and Regina Lee, vice president and a Saugus High School student.
“One of the main reasons why it didn’t pass was because a lot of people did not know what a ghost gun was. A common misconception, too, is that ghost guns are already banned, which is not true,” said Nanavaty.
“Education is important,” said Lee. “We should be educated about the laws that apply to these types of events so that minors and people that are affected by these events are more aware of how to deal with them.”
Through the program, which emphasizes civic engagement, the students said they were also able to sharpen their skills in public speaking and preparation, and learn what it takes to create laws.
Their bill is expected to be reviewed by current state legislators in May.