Speaking to a noisy, standing-room only crowd in Sandy on Saturday, student activists from Utah and Florida discussed gun control and school safety as part of the national March For Our Lives tour.
The panel included current students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and staff were killed in a mass shooting in February.
Parkland student Ryan Deitsch kicked off the town hall at the Mountain America Expo Center responding to a question about gun rights from a man wearing a white shirt with a “Utah Gun Exchange” logo on it.
In recent months, the Utah Gun Exchange, a gun classifieds site, has launched its own campaign, encouraging its employees and customers to attend various March For Our Lives events to provide a counter-perspective.
Deitsch said while the purpose of their tour was not to infringe on anyone’s rights, the frequency of school violence in the U.S. warrented action.
“It shouldn’t be an achievement to survive long enough to make it to graduation,” Deitsch said.
In a later exchange, Sam Robinson, co-owner of the Utah Gun Exchange, asked Deitsch whether students were willing to seek solutions beyond gun control.
Success has been seen around the country with violence prevention that hasn’t hinged on any changes in legislation, Deitsch responded.
Other exchanges elicited a mixture of reactions from the audience — usually cheers from gun control supporters and boos from gun rights advocates.
Organizers of Saturday’s town hall say its purpose was twofold: to discuss measures to improve school safety and to register young people to vote this November.
Elizabeth Love, a Salt Lake activist and recent graduate of West High School, said they purposefully chose a location within Rep. Mia Love’s district to highlight the Republican congresswoman’s record.
Referencing comments Rep. Love had made about improving gun safety, Elizabeth Love, who is of no relation, issued a challenge to the GOP congresswoman: “I call on you right now to cosponsor a bill in Congress for universal background checks.”
Rep. Love was not in attendance.
Salt Lake City marks the eighth stop for the “Road To Change” tour. Organizers were able to arrange a last-minute change of venue after a movie theater in South Jordan backed out of hosting the event.
Activists plan to visit ten more cities before the end of the month.