In the News

Students, parents pack town hall meeting in Wellington to discuss gun violence

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Washington, August 31, 2018 | comments
Written by Austen Erblat, Sun Sentinel - South Florida Community News

About 80 people showed up at the Wellington Community Center Aug. 29 to discuss how to reduce gun violence in communities, public gatherings and schools.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat who represents most of Palm Beach County, called the meeting after two recent shootings — one at a Palm Beach Central High School football game in Wellington and another at a video game tournament in Jacksonville. She has been outspoken on the issue of gun violence since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February, having led or attended multiple rallies and town hall meetings.

On Feb. 19, five days after the shooting in Parkland, she led a gathering at Delray Beach City Hall to address the shooting in which she criticized her colleagues in Congress who refused to take action on gun reform. In a statement released by her office the following day, she called for them to ban assault weapons and bump-stocks.

At the Wellington meeting, Frankel was joined by Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay, State Rep. Matt Willhite, Wellington Councilman John McGovern, Palm Beach County School Board member Marcia Andrews, Palm Beach County Commissioner candidate Gregg Weiss and Lake Worth City Commissioner Herman Robinson. Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig introduced everyone at the beginning of the meeting.

“Many parents and children are frightened because of recent school shootings, the horror in Parkland, the near tragedy in Wellington,” Frankel said. “Our town hall gave constituents an opportunity to share their concerns and ideas with their public officials at all levels of government.”

One attendee suggested classes for “life skills, coping skills, anger management and conflict resolution.” A student offered to assist the county in social media efforts for reaching young people.

Ari Silver, 16, an outspoken and politically active student in Palm Beach County who was in attendance, said town hall meetings cannot convey the sense of fear many students feel every day in school.

“It was wonderful that people with many different views came together to tackle the very serious issue of school safety,” he said. “Unfortunately, some people couldn’t handle opposing views and resorted to yelling and disrupting the event. We need more events like Congresswoman Frankel’s town hall where the community can come together to improve the safety of our schools and to protect the community from gun violence.”

Frankel said while she heard diverse opinions, everyone shared the goal of keeping students safe from gun violence.

“I am optimistic that there are many steps we can take to do this,” she said. “When it comes to gun violence, the bottom line is we all want our kids to be safe, and it’s going to take a robust response from the community to tackle this issue.”
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