Fla. shootings spur Dearborn forum

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Laura Dudgeon has been following gun law issues for years. This year, she said, she’ll march on Washington with the students during a walkout March 24 driven by the Florida school shootings because “enough is enough.”

“I thought with Sandy Hook something would have been done and thought it again with Las Vegas ... it’s time to help the kids do it since as adults, we can’t,” said Dudgeon, 68, of Dearborn.

She joined about 100 others Tuesday for a forum on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus on gun violence in America. Spurred by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Florida last week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, along with the SAFE Coalition and including the Dearborn Police Department, organized the event, which touched issues such as reducing the number of guns in America, preventing someone with mental health issues or domestic abuse convictions from owning a gun and finding ways to reach children before they act out in violence.

More:Mich. students to join walkouts to protest gun violence

The discussion also explained local school district and law enforcement safety protocols for responding to shootings.

Wearing black ribbons with a red line to remember the victims of the Florida shooting, speakers and some community members offered ideas to spur action or educate.

Dingell said she was working on a bipartisan bill with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican who represents the 6th Congressional District as part of the Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress, on legislation that would prohibit someone convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun.

They also are consulting with experts about whether teachers should be armed; legislation to prohibit bump stocks, which turn guns into automatic weapons; and how to close loopholes in background checks.

State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, and Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak balked at the idea of arming teachers in the classroom as a response to an active shooter.

“We are sending out kids to a school system that already has a broken K-12 system, where teachers already have to do so much with so little,” Hammoud said. “We’re focused on getting guns off our streets. There are 11 million guns in Michigan, there aren’t even 10 million residents, so tell me why we need semi automatic rifles.”

Woronchak cautioned against arming teachers. “We don’t pay them enough to be fighters as well as teachers,” he said. “I understand the emotional reactions but it might be an overreaction ...”

The Florida shooting Feb. 14, which killed 17 students and staff, has spurred districts to re-examine procedures during an active shooter and sparked discussion about safety on campuses. Dearborn Public Schools will begin active-shooter training and more social workers are being added, said Dearborn Special Education Coordinator Dr. Rola Bazzi.

“We now have three social workers for 2,100 (students) at Dearborn High School, and this year we are up to 36 social workers and are hiring more,” she told the crowd. “We like to do home visits, and when we have a student at risk, we take appropriate measures and often seek outside counsel through agencies like SAFE, ACCESS, to provide the best education for students and parents on the dangers of weapons.”

Students, she said, “need to not feel threatened but be part of our dialogue. How do we protect people’s individual rights?”

Community activists Tuesday vowed action to end the shootings.

“We want to protest, to support the national legislation, and every time the NRA speaks with money, we will speak louder with our voices,” said Maureen Standon.