By: Carly Levy
After the March For Our Lives rally, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch led a Town Hall on Tuesday night to keep the momentum going on strengthening gun laws.
With an attendance of nearly 1,000 at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, the event was held just seven weeks after the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
After nearly breaking down after reading the names of the 17 victims, he discussed ways to make schools safe including focusing on mental health and banning high-capacity magazine weapons. He also stressed the need to find out answers from law enforcement and the FBI.
“We’re here because of the brave families who have lost loved ones at Stoneman Douglas…and through their courage have set examples for the rest of us in all of the ways that we should be keeping our school safe and to prevent something like this from happening again.”
He received a standing ovation when he stressed the importance of getting universal background checks whenever someone purchases a gun, saying it had the support of over 90 percent of the American people.
Parents of the children who were killed in the Parkland shooting spoke on stage including Fred Guttenberg and Max Schachter. Guttenberg talked about his daughter Jamie and said he wanted to break the back of the gun lobby that had their grip on our legislature.
“The last time I saw my kid, I can’t remember if I said ‘I love you’ as she ran out the door. It is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life,” said Guttenberg. “Over the past few months, people talk about how it’s going to get easier every day. It doesn’t get easier. I miss my kid.”
He told the audience that if legislators “don’t come along and do the right thing, we will fire you.”
Max Schachter, spoke about the foundation “Safe Schools for Alex” he created in memory of his son that will support the efforts of a nationwide school safety commission. He also expressed how every political party needs to unite as a team to make schools safe again.
After their speeches, Rep. Deutch opened the town hall for questions. Two lines formed at the bottom of the stairs to the top on each side of the theater. What he couldn’t answer, he had other participating elected officials including State Representatives Jared Moskowitz and Kristin Jacobs, Broward County, Coconut Creek, Deerfield Beach, Margate and Parkland commissioners.
Samantha Fuentes, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who was shot multiple times, asked about school funds being used wisely instead of for clear backpacks. Freshman Ella Singer said that not all schools have the means to raise money like Marjory Stoneman Douglas and wanted to know if those schools will get increased law enforcement as well.
While many questions could not be answered. Deutch repeatedly conveyed his appreciation to the student activists who survived the shooting, and told them he would find answers.
A question was answered about ensuring trauma-trained psychologists were still available for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, CEO of Children’s Service Counsel at Broward County, recommended that students call 211 so they can matched with a trained trauma therapist.
When Coral Springs City Commissioner Dan Daley said that Florida has the most restrictions on guns and its components, several protesters in the upper level of the theater heckled him. Looking towards them, he said, “Their argument is guns don’t kill people, bad people kill people. Why would you want to make it easy for a bad person to get a gun?” He then received a standing ovation.
Student activist David Hogg was concerned how they would keep students safe, but also ensure that students of color were not being discriminated against. He also shared a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
After losing her daughter Alyssa, Lori Alhadeff created a non-profit organization “Alyssa Law” to make schools safe. Alhadeff said that Alyssa was in the first classroom that the killer shot into. “How are you going to have communication with law enforcement to get them into the school to stop the shooter from killing more kids? What are you going to implement to communicate to the school and the teachers to law enforcement?”
Rep. Deutch said that one of the things they noticed in connection to Stoneman Douglas was the lack of communication. ‘There are schools around the country that have school districts that are utilizing technology to help that communication take place immediately. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t benefit from the work that’s been done elsewhere.”
Daniel Tabares, a freshman and organizer for the March For Our Lives movement, asked what participants at the Town Hall could do right now to support gun safety. Deutch responded by asking everyone to go on Twitter and use the hashtag #TownHallForOurLives and to Tweet Speaker Paul Ryan @SpeakerRyan about universal background checks and any other concerns.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior Angelina Lazzo explained that while she didn’t want to repeal the second amendment, she believes weapons of war should not to be in the hands of civilians.
Before the night was over, Deutch allowed veterans to be the last ones to address their concerns. They expressed their wish for survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy to not hide their emotions and to seek help if they are suffering from any trauma.
Before the night was over, Rep. Deutch shared his disgust with student activists being bullied by “gun lobbyists.” “Let me just say that when they do it, and when they engage in the kind of outrageous bullying and efforts to silence them, they will fail. It is cowardice,” said Deutch.
Another Town Hall meeting will take place to continue the discussion next month.