07 March 2018

Student Civic Action at the CNN Town Hall on the Gun Debate

Intro Copy

CNN Town Hall

Back in August 2017, my colleague Amy Shaw and I attended our first town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Ted Deutch. We learned a lot about voicing our concerns for important matters that impact our community. We blogged about it and created six tips for preparing for a town hall based on our observations. (Included below) On February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland witnessed a deadly massacre when a gunman opened fire killing 17 students and teachers and wounding countless others. This unfortunate tragedy took place close to home, in our neighboring city.  Many of our friends and family have been impacted in some way. Since the attack, we have seen a community of extraordinary students come together and start a movement. Following the recent events, we had the opportunity to attend our second town hall hosted by CNN at the BB&T center on February 21, 2018. Rep. Ted Deutch, along with Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson took questions from the Douglas student survivors, their parents, and teachers on everything from gun control to mental health awareness. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, as well as NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, took questions in the second half.

Takeaways

My colleague and I couldn’t help but compare CNN’s town hall to our first town hall experience, which was held in a senior center, a much smaller venue than the BB&T center.  While our first town hall was attended by a few hundred people, the CNN town hall had well over 5,000 people in attendance. We were both especially impressed by the preparedness and eloquence of the students who participated in the CNN town hall. They were polite and civil, their questions concise, impassioned and well-thought out. The questions the students came up with were not ones that could be answered with a simple yes or a no. The students asked questions that encouraged dialogue by asking their elected officials how they intended to solve the issue of school shootings. The students, teachers, and parents also related powerful and emotional firsthand experiences about the tragedy. As we sat in the packed audience, the crowd reacted passionately to responses to questions concerning gun control and school safety in the aftermath of the shooting. One of the most riveting parts of the CNN town hall was when Senator Rubio, during questioning by a Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school senior, said he is reconsidering his stance on high-capacity magazines. To us, the dialogue in the town hall illustrates the importance of town hall meetings as a form of direct democracy in action. Town halls are a way of showing elected officials what matters to their constituents. While the students who participated were there because of a heartbreaking tragedy, they were demonstrating civic engagement at its finest. To help educators address the recent school shooting, we have compiled the resources below and have included our infographic with tips on how to prepare for a town hall meeting.

Resources

Educator Web Links for the Classroom:

Gun Violence, Gun Control, Gun Rights: Where We Go from Here (with Lesson Plan) Guns in America Resources for Talking and Teaching About the School Shooting in Florida Take a Poll, Debate the Issue: Gun Policy What Can We Learn from the Stoneman School Shooting?

ProQuest K-12 Resources on Gun Control and School Violence:

eLibrary Research Topic: Amendment II eLibrary Research Topic: Gun Control eLibrary Research Topic: National Rifle Association eLibrary Research Topic: School Violence SIRS Discoverer Pro/Con Leading Issues: Gun Control SIRS Issues Researcher: Gun Control SIRS Issues Researcher: School Shootings

CNN Town Hall Transcript:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/politics/cnn-town-hall-full-video-transcript/index.html

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