Student group holds town hall forum on gun violence and reform

(Buffalo NY) Students across western New York are calling on local and congressional lawmakers for stricter gun laws to help end gun violence and prevent mass school shootings. It's part of a national movement.

Students held a packed town hall style meeting at St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo Saturday where community members could make their voices heard.

“We said hey, if no one else is going to do it we have to do it,” said Akilesh Ramakrishna, a junior at Clarence high school.

Dozens of people packed St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo Saturday to talk about gun reform and how to end gun violence.

“We can keep sending thoughts and prayers, we can keep saying oh this needs to stop but without us contacting our politicians say what reform needs to happen, nothing's going to change,” said Ramakrishna, who helped organize the event.

Students for Action, a group made up of several western New York teens, organized the town hall style event. They invited several lawmakers including Congressman Brian Higgins, Congressman Chris Collins and congressional candidate and Grand Island town supervisor Nate MacMurray.

“The most important part of this is to have discussion with both sides and really hear out the people that are elected to represent us and understand their points of view,” Georgia Vanderwater, who’s a member of Students for Action.

Higgins says gun reform is a complex issue and needs to be looked at from a mental health and constitutional angle.

“Not just a ban on assault weapons but extensive background checks. If you're on terror watch list and you can't fly because you're suspected of that kind of activity you shouldn't be able to purchase a gun,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.

Congressman Collins wouldn't go to the forum, calling it a politicized anti-gun event put on by Democrats.

“We really would've loved to have him because we were trying to achieve a diversity of thought and opinions,” said Vanderwater.

Collins says the issue shouldn't be focused on guns, but the shooter.

“What made him an individual that did what they did, how much was social media, how much was violent video games, is there bullying involved,” said Congressman Chris Collins.

He says there needs to be more focus on making schools safe by having armed resource officers in schools.

Collins says Congress passed legislation two weeks ago fixing the National Instant Background Check where some federal agencies were not properly inputting information. According to Collins, Congress has also clarified that the CDC is authorized to study gun violence. He says legislators are talking about red flag laws which would allow states to confiscate someone's guns if they're considered a threat.

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