A high school senior from Ohio plans to use her graduation ceremony gown as a heartbreaking reminder of the dozens of students across the country who were unable to finish school because of gun violence.
Gina Warren, an 18-year-old from Ashville, Ohio, compiled a list of victims killed in mass shootings at American high schools, starting with the 1999 shooting at Columbine through the attack on STEM school last week. The grad-to-be plans to wear a QR code on her cap at the Sunday ceremony that will send anyone who snaps a picture of her gown to a list of school shooting victims.
Warren told BuzzFeed News she was inspired to make the statement after observing Parkland students silently protesting the National Rifle Association last year by painting the tops of their caps orange and including a price tag, which they said represented how much each student was worth to Republican Sen. 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," said Warren.
The teen then compiled a list of dozens of victims from Everytown, the nonprofit organization advocating against gun violence, and used a simple QR code maker to sync the two together.
Warren said that during her research of recent school massacres she was struck by the "incredibly long list."
"That was so heartbreaking," she said. "The names I included on my cap were just the ones killed because of a shooting that happened at a [high] school. It doesn't include kids who won't be able to graduate because of a shooting at a movie theater or church."
Warren shared her effort on Twitter, where it's gone massively viral. While some have accused her of "pushing an agenda," she pushed back on claim, insisting her "message is to honor these students."
"I hope anyone who sees how many names there are would think there is a problem," she said.
The student included a line at the bottom of her list calling on viewers to "protect our students" along with a reminder to vote.
"I'm not telling you how you should vote or what you should think — I'm telling you there's a problem," Warren said. "Whatever you think could make our country safer, you need to have a voice about it."
The reaction from most Twitter users who have responded to her post, however, has been positive, with many thanking her for remembering various victims and school shootings that they were afraid history had already forgotten.
Some are sending her more names of gun victims to include that may not have been in a national database.
Warren said she's withholding sharing her own personal opinions about gun control and legal reforms.
"I don't want to get into that," she told BuzzFeed News. "I just think we need to start speaking up. Change comes from keeping the conversation going."
That message was reiterated by Matt Deitsch, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting and one of the founding members of March for Our Lives. Deitsch direct-messaged Warren last week, telling her she "did incredible."
"Keeping the conversation going is how we save lives," he wrote.
When reached, Everytown For Gun Safety, who confirmed to BuzzFeed News they had no prior relationship with Warren, provided a statement from its Students Demand Action advisory board praising the high school senior for her actions.
"I admire this showing of passion and creativity," said Taylor King, a member of the advisory board of Students Demand Action, part of Everytown. "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. Students are speaking out because we've had enough and we know there's more we can do to end gun violence."
Warren believes that she was fortunate to make it to her own graduation, and that she sees herself in every one of the student victims she'll be carrying on her cap as she receives her diploma later this week.
"These students live lives exactly like mine, exactly like all of my classmates," she said. "This problem can happen anywhere. I'm going to keep fighting."
And because many on social media asked Warren if they, too, can include her QR code on the tops of their caps, she's provided an image of it to anyone who wants to join her fight.
@Gi10eight @LexiCUnderwood Thank you. Do you mind if I put this on my graduation cap?