University of North Carolina students rally for gun safety after fatal shooting of faculty member

Aug 30, 2023, 3:15 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A shooting that left a faculty member dead and frightened students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has galvanized gun safety advocates and local Democrats, who rallied the grieving campus community Wednesday to fight for stricter state gun laws.

About 600 students held protest signs on a large lawn in the heart of campus and bowed their heads during a moment of silence as the iconic campus Bell Tower rang in honor of the deceased associate professor, Zijie Yan.

Yan, who led a research group in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, was fatally shot Monday by one of his graduate students inside a science lab building at the state’s flagship public university, authorities said.

Students who spoke at the rally described hours of terror and confusion during a lockdown and police manhunt that resulted in the arrest of Tailei Qi, 34, who has been charged with first-degree murder and having a gun on educational property. Qi briefly appeared Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, and Judge Sherri Murrell ordered that he remain jailed without bond. Dana Graves, a public defender who represented Qi at the hearing, left court without talking to reporters and did not respond to an email seeking comment.

With quaking hands and trembling voices, students chanted Yan’s name Wednesday and raised signs that read “learning not lockdowns,” “this is my reality” and “1 death by guns is 1 too many.” They waved copies of The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, which went viral overnight for its Wednesday front page displaying emotional text messages sent and received by students during the lockdown.

“One shot was fired but an entire community was injured,” said Luke Diasio, vice president of the UNC chapter of March For Our Lives. “It was the most terrifying experience of my life.”

March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg, who launched the nationwide gun control movement in the immediate aftermath of a fatal mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, hugged teary eyed students, several who he had met previously. He urged them to take their pain and anger to the ballot box.

“The reality is, if we don’t mobilize after these things happen, they’re going to continue happening,” Hogg said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is a critical state because this is where change is possible, a lot more than in Washington. If students at UNC and elsewhere turned out and voted, they could change the state legislature.”

Hogg criticized North Carolina Republicans, who hold a narrowly veto-proof supermajority in the General Assembly, for enacting legislation this year that repealed a permit system requiring sheriffs to evaluate gun applicants before they could purchase a pistol.

As Republicans plan to redraw legislative maps in a special session this fall, state Democrats are preparing for an uphill battle in 2024, said state party chair Anderson Clayton. Elected at 25 years old, Clayton has trained her focus on young voters, whom she views as essential to shedding Democrats’ superminority status in the legislature, holding onto congressional seats and retaining control of the governor’s office after Gov. Roy Cooper ends his term.

“Now is always the time” for political action, she told the crowd. “Now’s too late in a lot of ways to be thinking about what we’re doing at this moment and how you can engage and put your voices out there.”

Volunteers with the UNC Young Democrats registered 24 new voters at the rally, the organization said.

Clayton called for “a reckoning in our state capital” and accused Republican leadership of not taking the shooting seriously.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican and UNC alumnus, had said in a statement Monday that he was “heartbroken” for his Tar Heel family and thankful for the officers and first responders who apprehended the suspect. Moore’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Clayton’s accusation.

Danielle Kennedy, a freshman from Apex, held a handmade sign that read “This is my 2nd School Shooting.” The computer science student told The AP she was overwhelmed Monday with familiar feelings of terror after having lived through a similar three-hour lockdown earlier this year when a student brought a BB gun to her high school.

“The first time around, I felt afraid, but now I’m just angry,” Kennedy said. “I’m living proof of how common and deeply traumatic this is for kids in our country.”


Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

United States News

FILE - Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa attends a session at the Africa Pavilion at the COP2...

Associated Press

US sanctions Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa over human rights abuses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Monday sanctioned Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, its first lady and other government officials for their alleged involvement in corruption and human rights abuses. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on three entities and 11 people, including the Mnangagwas, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and retired […]

55 minutes ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Associated Press

Settlement in Wisconsin fake elector case offers new details on the strategy by Trump lawyers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two attorneys for then-President Donald Trump orchestrated a plan for fake electors to file paperwork falsely saying the Republican won Wisconsin in a strategy to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory there and in other swing states, according to a lawsuit settlement reached Monday that makes public months of texts and emails. […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Florida passes bill to compensate victims of decades-old reform school abuse

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Restitution for decades of abuse at two now-shuttered reform schools where boys were beaten, raped and killed is now in the hands of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis after the Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday to set aside $20 million for victims. The bill creates a process for former inmates at […]

2 hours ago

Split panel showing file photos of the U.S. Supreme Court exterior on the left and Donald Trump on ...

Associated Press

Supreme Court overrules state efforts to keep Donald Trump off presidential primary ballots

The Supreme Court on Monday restored Donald Trump to 2024 presidential primary ballots, rejecting state attempts to hold the Republican former president accountable for the Capitol riot.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Do AI video-generators dream of San Pedro? Madonna among early adopters of AI’s next wave

Whenever Madonna sings the 1980s hit “La Isla Bonita” on her concert tour, moving images of swirling, sunset-tinted clouds play on the giant arena screens behind her. To get that ethereal look, the pop legend embraced a still-uncharted branch of generative artificial intelligence – the text-to-video tool. Type some words — say, “surreal cloud sunset” […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

North Carolina woman charged with murder in death of twin sons after father finds bodies

MURPHY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina woman has been charged with killing her twin 4-year-old sons, whose bodies were discovered by their father when he arrived to pick them up, authorities said. The father called 911 after he arrived at the home of his wife, Genevieve Ellen Springer, on Saturday morning in Murphy, North […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

University of North Carolina students rally for gun safety after fatal shooting of faculty member