'Never again' students say at Town Hall For Our Lives
Royal Oak — Around 60 students, community leaders and activists gathered for the Town Hall for Our Lives in Royal Oak on Saturday declaring "never again" to school shootings.
The town hall is among a series of events by the same organizers of March For Our Lives, following the marches on March 24, in Washington and nationwide. More than 100 events were scheduled in 34 states on Saturday, including local events in Royal Oak and Novi.
The town hall discussed what's next for the March For Our Lives movement and community members had in-person conversations with their representatives and candidates.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, his son Andy Levin, Senator Steve Bieda, State Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park), State Rep. Jim Ellison of Royal Oak and Ellen Lipton, a candidate for congress answered questions from the community and listened to concerns.
Levin said they're closer to making changes than ever before and it's because of the "ambitious young leaders."
"I think the difference is for the first time, this movement is being led by young people and the real question is, will all of us join them?" said Sander Levin. "After all of the assassinations, the Kennedy's, Martin Luther King Jr., and in more recent times, kids... we have to organize. I'm lucky to be able to be a small part of it."
Andy Levin, who is running to succeed his father, says he supports banning high capacity magazines and bump stocks, increasing background checks, and "just common sense measures."
"It's not about revoking guns — but the lobbying for corporate America," said Andy Levin. "I'm humble and hopeful and believe we can make change through this movement."
Wittenberg graduated Berkley High School in 1999, when the Columbine High School massacre occurred, and said being the same age as those students left an impact on him.
"We shouldn't be dealing with symptoms, we should be dealing with the problem," he said. "There are certain people who shouldn't have weapons and there are certain weapons people shouldn't have... That's why I introduced a bill for universal background checks."
He also spoke on “red flag” regulations that could allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms and ammunition from a person whom a judge deems a legitimate threat. Last month, Governor Rick Snyder also said he was considering the regulation.
Republican candidate Candius Stearns said she was concerned as a mother of two teenagers and advocated for more security in schools.
"I agree, you should be able to pass a proper background check and I don't think arming teachers is the right way, but rather to provide more schools with proper security," Stearns said. "We also need to put money into mental health and support our kids so they have a safe environment."
The event also included students and nonpartisan groups like Engage 18, a nonprofit aimed to increase high school voter turnout, Royal Oak and Bloomfield Hills High Schools and the Moms Demand Action Committee.
Elliot Widd, 16, of Royal Oak High School spoke against arming teachers and more school security.
"We should add more social workers, not police officers," said Widd. "More officers means more guns and I don't feel safe having officers in school because even in Royal Oak, there have been racial incidents we shouldn't repeat."
Liz Bauer, who formerly served on the state board of education from 2003-2011, attended the community meeting because she was also concerned about legislatures wanting to arm teachers.
"This is a gun sales mechanism," said Bauer, 80, of Ferndale. "If you arm every teacher in Michigan, you've sold 80,000 guns. It's not right to expect teachers to be the force of a SWAT team."
The students will walk out again on April 20, commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High shooting, where 13 people were murdered in Colorado, and will last for the entire school day.