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Gun Safety Advocates and UNC Students Mobilize After Tragic Killing of Faculty Member

by Lucas Garcia
10 comments
UNC Chapel Hill Shooting

Following the fatal shooting of an academic staff member that sowed fear among the student population, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became a focal point for local gun control supporters and Democratic party members. They organized a campus-wide gathering on Wednesday to advocate for more stringent gun regulations within the state.

Approximately 600 students assembled in a central campus green, carrying placards. They observed a moment of silence while the university’s historic Bell Tower tolled, paying tribute to the late associate professor, Zijie Yan.

Yan, who directed a research team in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, was shot and killed in a science building on campus by one of his graduate students, according to law enforcement officials. The tragic incident occurred on Monday at this prominent public institution.

Students who took the podium at the gathering recounted the lengthy, harrowing ordeal during the lockdown and subsequent police pursuit that led to the capture of 34-year-old Tailei Qi. Qi faces charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm on educational premises. He made a brief court appearance on Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, where Judge Sherri Murrell mandated his detention without bail. Dana Graves, Qi’s public defender, declined to engage with the media and did not answer email inquiries for comment.

Students, visibly shaken and emotionally charged, chanted Yan’s name and displayed signs with slogans such as “learning not lockdowns,” “this is our reality,” and “one gun death is one too many.” They also held up copies of UNC’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, which gained widespread attention for featuring poignant text messages exchanged by students during the lockdown.

Luke Diasio, vice president of the UNC chapter of March For Our Lives, said, “A single gunshot has wounded our entire community. It was the most terrifying moment I’ve ever lived through.”

David Hogg, co-founder of March For Our Lives, which came into prominence following the devastating Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018, consoled emotionally distressed students, some of whom he had met before. He implored the students to channel their anguish and indignation into civic participation. “Unless we act now, such incidents will keep recurring,” Hogg told The Big Big News. He censured North Carolina Republicans for recent laws that eradicated a permit system mandating a sheriff’s evaluation before pistol purchases.

State Democrats are bracing for tough electoral battles in 2024, said state party chair Anderson Clayton. At 25, Clayton focuses her efforts on attracting younger voters, whom she considers vital for shifting the balance of power in the state legislature, maintaining congressional seats, and retaining gubernatorial authority after Gov. Roy Cooper’s term concludes. She told the assembled crowd, “The time for political engagement is now; waiting any longer would be too late.”

The UNC Young Democrats organization reported that they registered 24 new voters during the event.

Clayton criticized the state’s Republican leaders for their alleged lack of seriousness concerning the recent shooting. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County and UNC graduate, had earlier issued a statement expressing his sorrow over the incident but did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking comment on Clayton’s allegations.

Danielle Kennedy, a first-year computer science student, displayed a sign saying, “This is my 2nd School Shooting.” Overwhelmed by the recent events, she shared her sentiment with The AP, saying, “Initially, I was scared, but now I am just furious. I am a living testament to how pervasive and emotionally scarring these incidents have become for America’s youth.”


Reported by Hannah Schoenbaum, who is affiliated with the Big Big News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported subjects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about UNC Chapel Hill Shooting

What sparked the rally at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

The rally was sparked by the fatal shooting of an associate professor, Zijie Yan, at the university’s campus. The tragedy alarmed the student body and mobilized local gun control supporters and Democrats.

Who organized the rally?

The rally was organized by local gun control advocates and Democratic party members, along with student organizations such as the UNC chapter of March For Our Lives.

How many students participated in the rally?

Approximately 600 students participated in the rally, according to the report.

What were some of the slogans displayed at the rally?

Some of the slogans on the placards displayed by students included “learning not lockdowns,” “this is our reality,” and “one gun death is one too many.”

Who is David Hogg and what was his role at the rally?

David Hogg is a co-founder of the nationwide gun control movement March For Our Lives, which gained prominence following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. He attended the rally to console emotionally distressed students and urged them to turn their anguish into political action.

What legal actions have been taken against the alleged shooter?

The alleged shooter, Tailei Qi, faces charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm on educational premises. He appeared briefly in Orange County Superior Court, where he was ordered to be detained without bail.

What is the political context surrounding this event?

The incident has intensified the debate around gun control laws in North Carolina. State Democrats criticize Republicans for enacting legislation that repealed a permit system for pistol purchases. The state’s Democratic party chair, Anderson Clayton, is focusing on young voters in preparation for upcoming elections.

How did the UNC Young Democrats contribute to the event?

The UNC Young Democrats registered 24 new voters during the rally, according to the organization.

What was the reaction from state political leadership?

State party chair Anderson Clayton criticized Republican leaders for not taking the shooting seriously. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, issued a statement saying he was “heartbroken” but did not respond to Clayton’s accusations.

Have similar incidents occurred recently affecting UNC students?

Danielle Kennedy, a freshman at UNC, held a sign that read, “This is my 2nd School Shooting,” indicating that some students have had prior experiences with gun violence. She had lived through a similar three-hour lockdown earlier in the year when a student brought a BB gun to her high school.

More about UNC Chapel Hill Shooting

  • UNC Campus Shooting: The Tragic Incident
  • March For Our Lives: Origin and Objectives
  • Gun Control Laws in North Carolina: Current Legislation
  • UNC Young Democrats: Activities and Impact
  • The Role of Young Voters in North Carolina Politics
  • Emotional and Psychological Impact of School Shootings
  • Profile of Associate Professor Zijie Yan: His Contributions to Science
  • Overview of Recent U.S. School Shootings: Statistics and Studies
  • Orange County Superior Court: Procedures and Cases
  • UNC’s Historic Bell Tower: Significance and History

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10 comments

Kevin O'Neal August 31, 2023 - 3:03 am

Political leaders gotta act now! How many more rallies and hashtags do we need till something actually changes.

Reply
Emily Clark August 31, 2023 - 4:34 am

So well reported. Gives us all the facts, the emotion, and even the politics. Kinda hard to digest tho, knowing this is our reality now.

Reply
John Adams August 31, 2023 - 4:58 am

It’s about time we talk about gun control. Serious discussion needed, our schools are becoming battlegrounds.

Reply
Sarah Johnson August 31, 2023 - 5:02 am

Heartbreaking! What are we doing to protect our kids? this is insane.

Reply
Paul Mitchell August 31, 2023 - 7:13 am

Let’s not forget, this is a tragedy for the family of the professor too. Thoughts and prayers are with them.

Reply
Rachel Green August 31, 2023 - 8:44 am

Hogg’s right, if we don’t do something it’s gonna keep happening. Hate to say it, but it’s the bitter truth.

Reply
Alice Winters August 31, 2023 - 9:49 am

This happened at my alma mater. Terrifying. UNC community needs to come together, no time for division.

Reply
Mike Smith August 31, 2023 - 10:07 am

Wow, this is so sad. cant believe it happened in a universty setting where ppl r supposed to feel safe.

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Linda Hughes August 31, 2023 - 5:18 pm

im glad young voters are getting involved, we need change and we need it now. But also, shout out to UNC Young Dems for registering new voters.

Reply
Steve Warren August 31, 2023 - 6:00 pm

Complex issue for sure. But we can’t be complacent, too many lives at stake. The article does a good job capturing the urgency.

Reply

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