Kathryn Fleisher (22) is the founder and executive director of Not My Generation, a non-profit organization that’s tackling the gun violence epidemic by widening the scope of gun violence policy, and focusing on how systemic social injustice leads to gun violence.
Fleisher first got involved in gun violence prevention when she was 16 years old, as a member of NFTY, which is a national Reform Jewish youth movement. “It opened my eyes to this whole world that at that time in my life, I simply wasn’t aware of,” Fleisher tells In The Know.
When Felisher was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, the Tree of Life mass shooting happened, which was both “traumatic and horrifying,” according to Fleisher. It was this tragedy that led Fleisher to start her organization.
“In the wake of that, the only thing that made sense to me was organizing,” says Fleisher. “And so I decided to do everything I could to do something about this epidemic.”
Six years ago, Not My Generation was just Fleisher and a single document. But now, the national organization has over 40 individuals across the country. The goal of the organization is to take on gun reform by focusing on the systemic injustices that lead to gun violence, “particularly as they relate to race, class and gender injustices.”
“We live in a society where people are more likely to face homelessness and food insecurity and rising rates of depression, anxiety, lack of access to health care and mental health care,” explains Fleisher. “You create an environment where people don’t know where to turn. When there are more guns than people, and you live in a society like that, gun violence is nearly inevitable.”
The organization doesn’t just aim to take guns off the street. They set out to provide health care, social security nets, and alternative options for people, attempting to lessen the social disparities that could lead to gun violence.
“Not My Generation fills a different kind of void in the gun violence prevention movement. We focus on gun violence as an issue that is connected to, and fed by, other types of injustice,” explains Fleisher.
One recent project that Fleisher is especially proud of is a policy playbook titled “De-Policing the Gun Violence Prevention Movement,” which outlines Not My Generation’s collective vision for a justice-centered gun violence prevention movement that doesn’t rely on the police state.
Despite her wider systemic approach to the gun violence epidemic, Fleisher agrees that gun-specific policies are still essential to achieving the ultimate goal.
“I think when we talk about the future of gun violence, it’s really easy to say, ‘I want to see background checks,’ ‘I want to see assault weapons banned,’ ‘I want to see universal availability of extremist protection orders,’” says Fleisher. “All of those things are vital, and they’re necessary, and I want to see them too. But I think that we have to think bigger than that.”
Fleisher envisions a world where communities aren’t built around “punishment and fear,” and she has high hopes that her generation can make it happen.
“I really believe that young people are going to change the world,” Fleisher tells In The Know. “We can collectively move forward towards a different kind of justice, a different kind of safety, a different kind of what community really means.”
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