Your Say: Aug. 23-29, 2018

Activist Teens Are Organizing Against Gun Violence

       At the March for Our Lives rally that I spearheaded this spring, I promised that I would not give up the fight to solve gun violence in our schools and our community. I’ve upheld that promise since, attending various town halls and speaking with politicians. On August 15, we went a step further by hosting a bipartisan roundtable to discuss school safety.  

       I invited federal, state and local officials, candidates and members of the education community for an honest discussion about what could be done to protect students, and the greater community, from gun violence. My hope was that we’d get beyond sound bites, slogans and signs. 

      Many accepted the challenge. Attending were State Sen. Ed Reilly, Del. Eric Luedtke, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, candidates Steuart Pittman (Anne Arundel County executive), Susan Turnbull (lieutenant governor. Sending representatives were Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep Anthony Brown. Attending for Gov. Larry Hogan was Ed Clarke, executive director of the Center for School Safety. Speaking for the education community were Julie ­Hummer, the president of the Anne Arundel County School Board, and Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association. 

       The roundtable broke into two sections: school safety and gun violence. Rob Timm, a deejay at WRNR in Annapolis, helped me facilitate the conversation.

       I asked the panel their thoughts on what needs to be done to make schools safer. Was it more barriers and physical deterrents, more armed resource officers or more preemptive measures such as counseling?

      Teachers should not be armed: on that the entire panel agreed. On physical deterrents, Donovan ­Weekley, a junior at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, said that Jaelynn Willey, the girl who died, was going to be a target of her killer in school or not. This led the group to discuss mental health resources and more pupil personnel workers who can work with students and try to prevent violence before it happens. 

      On how recent state funds for making schools safer is to be distributed, we learned that the goal is to level the playing field, so that schools in less wealthy counties receive more funding than schools in wealthier counties. 

      On the second topic, gun violence, the panel noted that Maryland has tight gun laws and recently passed more common-sense gun legislation. But more action is needed on the federal level, including a national database. 

     The roundtable was a good starting point. We didn’t come up with solutions, but we did have a productive and civil discussion spanning many different perspectives on the common goal of reducing gun deaths.

      I also gained another piece in my continued fight to reduce gun violence: working on access to mental health care and counseling. 

–Mackenzie Boughey, 
Severn School rising junior