Town Hall for Our Lives





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By Lynne Beauchamp, lbeauchamp@thesuntimesnews.com

Students across the nation are taking part in various protests and demonstrations focused on safety in their schools. Whether participating in walkouts or writing letters to politicians, many want to see changes to feel safe in what should be a place for education, not execution.



At a local level, former Dexter High School students Julia Bell and Gianna Eisele (now Wayne State University Freshman) coordinated a town hall discussion with political representatives and community members to discuss the topic of gun violence and safety within schools.  The well-attended event took place at the Dexter District Library on April 8

The panel included 7th Congressional District Candidate, Steven Friday; 7th Congressional District Candidate Gretchen Driskell and State Representative Donna Lasinski.   Tim Walberg, 7th District Congressman was invited but could not attend. Several current Dexter High School students were among those who spoke during the event.

Eisele and Bell both participated in the March 24 March for Our Lives in Detroit and have been following the movement since.

“While our generation is the soul of this movement, we can never accomplish any of our goals alone,” said Bell in her opening remarks. “We need our parents, we need our teachers, we need our neighbors, we need our communities and we need our representatives.”
“That is why we are gathered here today” added Eisele commenting on the Parkland, Florida school shooting and the motivation behind the movement. “We have been told we are too young and don’t understand, that is not true… we can do this… and thank everyone for being here today and making this opportunity possible.”

“We all want to not get shot in our daily lives, we all want less gun violence in our lives, we want gun safety,” said Friday in part of his opening remarks adding if change in gun laws are to be made, one needs to elect someone who is not going to accept NRA contributions and who will put humanity over corporate donations. He added gun violence has impacted his family life and takes the issue seriously.

Lasinski said there are currently several bills in legislature involving guns. She said the bills range from requiring universal background checks on gun ownership to a bill that would remove any need for a permit, training or duty to disclose to a police officer whether or not one is carrying a concealed weapon. She said there are many discussions at the capitol on gun issues.

“It is possible to be two things at once,” said Lasinski on her views and actions of guns in society.  “It is possible to be a responsible gun owner who also wants to ensure that other gun owners are responsible.”

As a former school board member, Lasinski said student safety is a priority and uses that platform as a legislator.

“It is ridiculous that we even have to have this conversation,” said Driskell. “There shouldn’t be guns in schools, this is a conversation that we have been having for way to long and I am so glad the youth are calling out the representatives and legislatures who aren’t in this room and should be because they need to look in the eyes of you all.”

Dexter High School Senior, Georgia Frost, spoke on gun control in Japan where, Frost said, there are strict gun regulation policies requiring an application to the public safety commission specifying intended use of the gun and handguns are not allowed for civilian possession. She added that Japan also focuses on mental health issues and prohibits those with dementia, those with alcohol or certain substance abuse issues, those that have restraining orders against them and other mental health related issues from possessing a gun.

The panel answered questions including what gun control issues are being reviewed by government at local, state and federal levels. Dexter students were given the opportunity to address their “why” for participating in the National School Walkout day and an open discussion followed.

One of the most compelling statements was made by Dexter High School student, Sabina Carty, a student who participated in the National School Walkout.

“Who remembers being shocked, saddened, surprised or horrified of the Columbine shooting,” Carty asked the attendees as they raised their hands in remembrance, “And who remembers being shocked, saddened, surprised or horrified by the Parkland shooting?”

“Something I want to point out is, none of the high schoolers here today were even able to raise their hand about the Columbine shooting. It happened in 1998…we were born in 2000. We have never lived in a world in which school shootings were not in occurrence. We have never lived in a world in which we did not do lockdown drills. We have never lived in a world where there hasn’t been a discussion in school where someone asks the teacher ‘what would you do right now if a shooter came in?’ and it just keeps getting worse and it feels like the people that have represented us don’t always understand what it feels like to sit in class and you have your thoughts wander and think where in the class would I sit right now if a shooter came in…it’s time, it’s way overdue that these shootings stop, it’s been almost twenty years since Columbine and it’s still happening today.”

As the meeting drew to a close, all were encouraged to register to vote and contact government officials.

 

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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