Committee warns against “Notorious Nineteen” States


Photo used with permission of Tribune News Service.

People gather at a candlelight vigil on Nov. 8 to mourn those killed in the Thousand Oaks shooting

Ethan O'Sullivan, Web Editor

This is another story about gun violence. Regardless of how many stories unfold about any number of tragedies, it seems that there is never any less reason for them. After all, 2018 has already seen over 12,000 gun-related deaths, with 68 of those deaths resulting from mass shootings.

Although our current circumstances make it hard not to feel demoralized, it is also hard not to forget about the problem. The recent Thousand Oaks massacre, which took the lives of 12 innocents, was a hard and sobering reminder that change will not come on its own.

Not long after the Thousand Oaks shooting, we received a commment from someone named Jon Jiler on a story about the Marjory Stoneman shooting which I published earlier this year. It reads as follows:

Dear Editor;

Autumn is deepening, and seniors are seriously thinking about their next step. For many of us, your generation is the hope of the future. The Parkland high school shootings galvanized young people across the nation to passionately advocate for common sense gun laws. Now, as your attention turns to college, we want to turn our admiration into action.

With the help of the Brady Center, the new Gabby Giffords consortium, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, we’re reaching out to high school journalists across the country with our list of the NOTORIOUS NINETEEN—the states with dangerous, inadequate gun laws. Many of them condone the open carry of weapons on college campuses, but even those who don’t have encouraged or tolerated a state-wide, lawless violent culture. Our mission is to make these states known to high school seniors, whom we encourage NOT to apply to college in:


We’ll be following up with letters to the Governors and legislators of the “Notorious Nineteen.” If they’re curious why their state-wide college applications are down this year, we’ll be happy to tell them!

Thank you for considering the publication of this letter in your newspaper. This is how the world changes. Good luck throughout senior year…… and beyond!

John Jiler,
Committee for Scholastic Action On Guns

An initial analysis of the letter raised a few questions. Suspiciously, a Google search of John Jiler and the Committee did not take me to any informational sites about his affiliations. Instead, I only found several other news websites who chose to publish the same letter. I also found it interesting that the letter made no mention of Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Those states all allow concealed carry of firearms on campus, which most certainly contribute to a violent culture.

I think the sentiment of this letter is valuable. As acceptance letters release over the next few weeks, I will be conducting thorough research about the gun laws of each state where I was accepted. To me laws are just as important as a school’s tuition and quality of education. Gun culture should be enough to make or break somebody’s decision to attend a school.

Still, I reached out to Jiler at the email he provided us in order to ask questions about his affiliation as well as request more specific criteria for a state to be considered a part of the Notorious Nineteen. These are the results of that conversation:

The “Notorious Nineteen” was not arrived at lightly….and only after consultations with The Brady, Giffords and Everytown organizations—the most focused gun control advocates in the country. True, places like Oregon and Wisconsin have a long way to go to create a safe environment for their constituents. Frankly, there are a dozen more that fit that description. But there are at least within those statehouses and legislatures some voices for change. The “Notorious Nineteen” are places where there is currently, in our judgment, NO REAL IMPETUS OR HOPE FOR CHANGE.

Once the college application period is over (we hope to reach a thousand high schools!) we’ll be reaching out to college presidents, governors and legislators of the 19, and letting them know what we’re up to. Hopefully, pressure from them will start moving their states in the right direction.

This is a long battle, Ethan. The NRA is as entrenched as any lobbyist group in this country. But we have to stand up to them. “Freedom” does not entitle any teenager or mentally challenged person to buy an automatic weapon. The rest of us want the “Freedom” to live our lives without fear of violence, and we’ll fight for that right.