Eight local high school and college students organized Saturday’s “Lancaster Town Hall for Our Lives,” a conversation with elected officials and candidates about preventing school shootings. As LNP’s Tim Mekeel reported, the Lancaster event was among more than 100 student-led town halls held across the nation Saturday, at the urging of the student survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 14 students and three staff members dead. “The town halls, like the nationwide marches and high school walkouts that preceded it, have been intended to keep public attention on the issue and push elected officials into action,” Mekeel noted. Some 170 people attended the Lancaster town hall.
Manheim Central High School senior Taylor Enterline was among the dozen students who took part in an LNP Opinion discussion March 27 on school shootings.
The smart and feisty young woman said then she was determined to keep the issue in the public spotlight. She said young people knew it would take time to effect real change, but that’s why they needed to “push.” “The generation before us kind of left us a mess and we’re not going to do the same to the next one,” she said.
Enterline made good on her promise to keep pushing by helping to organize Saturday’s town hall.
“Even though I have never experienced gun violence does not mean I should be silent about the issue ... I want to speak out before I or my school becomes the next statistic,” she said Saturday.
It would have been easy for Enterline and the other students who organized Saturday’s town hall to do what the National Rifle Association clearly is hoping they’ll do: move on from their sorrow over Parkland, lose their energy for the #NeverAgain movement and their interest in gun regulation, get reimmersed in day-to-day life.
To their great credit, they have not.
“I’m here today because we’re tired of watching children be massacred without a second thought. We’re tired of wondering if we will be next,” said Sierra Wimer, a Warwick High School sophomore.
“No parent should have to tell their kid before they leave for school to look for an escape route in every class or look for somewhere to hide in every class,” she said.
Students from Conestoga Valley, Franklin & Marshall College, The Stone Independent School and Collegium Charter School also helped to organize the town hall.
We thank them all for their efforts to keep the conversation on school safety going.
It is not a subject that should be supplanted by others, or overtaken by news events, however dizzying the pace of news is these days.
We also appreciate that the aim of the town hall was to encourage civil and spirited discussion. But as too often happens in this polarized political landscape of ours, it turned out to be one-sided.
A group of about 25 people asked questions of state Rep. Mike Sturla, U.S. House candidate Jess King — who hopes to take on Congressman Lloyd Smucker in November — and state House candidates Michele Wherley, Sue Walker and Dana Hamp Gulick, all Democrats in districts entirely or partially in Lancaster County.
As Mekeel reported, 11 Republican state and U.S. incumbents, who were invited but did not attend, told LNP they either had prior commitments or were disinclined to take part because Lancaster Stands Up, which assisted with the event, supports Jess King.
It likely didn’t help that the town hall was held at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, where King’s husband, Chad Martin, used to serve as pastor. (Martin is on the roster of “Matters of Faith” columnists for the Sunday LNP Perspective section.)
We’re guessing this had more to do with Lancaster Stands Up than with the student organizers.
We’ve been as persistent as anyone in calling on Smucker to meet constituents in a face-to-face town hall. But we’re not surprised he didn’t attend Saturday’s event, given the venue and Lancaster Stands Up’s involvement.
This does not diminish the efforts of the students who organized the event.
We do hope that elected officials on both sides of the aisle engage with students who care passionately about preventing school shootings. Not a hand-picked group of students. But students like Taylor Enterline, who is fighting not just for her own safety, but for that of students across the county and nation.
She and other students deserve to be heard. And they will be — because they’ll be voting soon.
Guns and domestic abusers
The state Senate voted unanimously — 50 to 0 — March 21 to strengthen gun regulation in cases of domestic violence.
Senate Bill 501 was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Tom Killion, who represents Chester and Delaware counties. It requires anyone who is a subject of a protection from abuse order to relinquish his firearms within 24 hours. Persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence must surrender their guns within 48 hours.
Should this bill become law, no longer would abusers have a ridiculously long period of 60 days to relinquish their firearms.
And no longer would they be able to store their guns with family members or friends. Their firearms would need to be relinquished to law enforcement, a licensed gun dealer or an attorney.
As the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports, the “presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.”
It is inhumane to ask a victim of domestic violence to wait 60 days before her abuser must give up his firearms.
Fifty senators, most of them Republican, voted in favor of Senate Bill 501. Lancaster County’s senators, Ryan Aument and Scott Martin, were among them, and we thank them for backing this commonsense measure.
A unanimous Senate vote should make this bill easier to pass in the House of Representatives. But “should” is not the same thing as “will.”
We hope Aument’s and Martin’s counterparts in the House show the same good sense — and the same compassion for domestic violence victims.