Democratic candidates talk about guns at a town hall in Crockett Park organized by Williamson County students. / Photo by Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
Students from several Williamson County High Schools organized a town hall meeting on Friday to talk about gun violence with several Democratic candidates running for local, state and national offices.
The candidates answered student questions, and explained how they would try to make schools safer.
After participating in a school walkout and a march to protest gun violence, Franklin High School student Jose Guevara said that it wasn’t totally clear what the next step was. He heard that some students were organizing town halls with legislators to talk about gun regulations, and decided he wanted to bring one to Williamson County.
“At first I thought that this wasn’t a job for high schoolers to do,” he said. “But then I realized, if not us then who? I realized that we could not pass laws. We could not vote. But we could stand up, we could raise our voice.”
He worked with another Franklin High student, Zaac Colvett, to form a group of students from schools all over Williamson County. The group reached out to legislators from both parties to try to schedule the town hall, starting with the area’s congressional representatives.
Colvett said that congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was too busy to fit the event into her schedule. Senator Lamar Alexander responded to the group’s emails with information about addressing mental health, but did not commit to coming to the event. Senator Bob Corker did not respond.
Since they couldn’t get their congressional representatives to come to the town hall, they decided to reach out to candidates running for office. They ended up with a panel of five Democrats running for seats in the U.S. congress, the Tennessee state legislature and the county school board.
Justin Kanew, hoping to represent Tennessee’s seventh district, came to the town hall. Kristen Grimm, Rebecca Purington and Toby Shaffer, all running for seats in the state legislature, answered questions at the town hall as well. The panel also included Bradley Fiscus, running for the Williamson County School Board.
A table at the event had literature from Justin Kanew’s campaign, as well as voter registration forms. Members of the group Moms Demand Action came to support the students at the event.
The students asked the candidates questions about their positions on proposals to make it harder to buy guns, and wanted to know how they would convince fellow lawmakers to vote for those proposals.
The candidates generally agreed that it should be illegal to own assault weapons. They also supported adding more steps in the gun buying process to make sure they wouldn’t end up in the hands of someone who wanted to cause harm.
At the end of the event, the candidates applauded the students’ activism. Shaffer said he was impressed by their persistence, and encouraged them to stay politically active. Fiscus agreed, saying that the next generation could make a big difference.
“I’m a placeholder right now,” he said. “Once I’m elected to the School Board, I’m just holding the seat until one of you guys decide to come and run for my seat.”