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Town hall to discuss guns brings together students, lawmakers, and gun rights advocates

On Wednesday evening, KIRO 7 hosted a town hall to discuss gun control, gun rights, and possible solutions to end gun violence in schools. Among the panelists who spoke at the event were students, a psychiatrist, elected leaders, victims of gun violence, and advocates for gun rights.

The town hall came at the end of a day where thousands of students from around Washington, and across the country, participated in school walkouts to protest violence in schools.

The evening began with remarks from Governor Inslee who spoke about legislation he would like to see, including raising the minimum age to buy semiautomatic shotguns and rifles and banning high capacity assault weapons in Washington. Inslee also discussed his opposition to arming teachers, calling it “a ludicrous, ridiculous idea,” and nodded to his recent remarks to Trump to tweet less and listen more.

Brady Olsen, a teacher at North Thurston High School, agreed with the governor and said that while he is a gun owner, he does not support arming teachers and bringing guns into the classroom.

“Education is about trust, it’s about relationships, it’s about understanding. That’s really what makes it work. And bringing guns into the classroom… I think really tears down the very fabric that we are about as educators,” said Olsen.

Senators Manka Dhingra and Tim Sheldon also participated in the town hall. While Dhingra said she supports funding mental health services, the key focus in these shootings should be to examine behavior.

 “If you look at the vast number of people who engage in this behavior, they have issues of domestic violence, they have issues related to a history of violence… let’s make sure we are addressing behavior. Let’s make sure that people who have a history of violence do not have access to weapons.”

“Individuals who have mental health issues are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of violence,” said Dhingra.

Sheldon, disagreed, saying that mental health is really the deciding factor and a common thread among those who perpetrate these crimes. He says he supports developing programs for peer-to-peer counseling and hiring more school counselors.

Dave Workman, the senior editor of the from the 2nd Amendment Foundation, spoke for gun rights activists and pointed out that everyone needs to keep this issue in perspective. He says that of the millions of people who own firearms in the country, very few of them are misusing their firearms and committing crimes.

As far as other possible solutions to reduce gun violence, Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, a Seattle University Criminal Justice Professor, offered a fresh perspective. She says that examining American culture would go a long way in addressing gun violence.

“I haven’t heard people talk about the fact that almost all mass shooters are male. We have socialized violent masculinity that’s socialized into our children. We all play a role in that… there are many ways to address this issue and laws are just one of the ways… we need to address it with laws, we need to address it with policies, we need to address it with the way we socialize our children.”

Rev. Dr. Sandy Brown from the Alliance for Gun Responsibility summed up the night by saying that the four most important words to remember are — listen to the students.

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