Austin community tackles gun control without Cruz, Cornyn

The March For Our Lives student group that led thousands of worldwide marches calling for safer gun laws on March 24 is continuing their call to action for gun safety by hosting hundreds of town hall meetings across the nation.

On April 7, more than two dozen congressional candidates and community members met at the Emo’s music venue on East Riverside for an “empty chair” town hall. This town hall was organized in direct response to Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, who has called for town halls across the nation on April 7. These events are primarily to allow young voters to see the gun safety debate from both sides of the equation.

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were invited to this event. The “empty chair” refers to the visual meant to make a point that lawmakers are either for or against the March For Our Lives students in their movement for gun reform safety laws. Neither Cruz nor Cornyn attended.

“Senator Cruz welcomes his constituent’s engagement on all policy issues and exercises their freedom of speech,” said Nora Moroski, a student from Newtown Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook mass shooting occurred. Moroski read a statement from Cruz that was given to all the town hall meetings across the state.

“The only effective way to stop these mass shootings is by targeting those who violate our laws and help in taking rights away from law abiding citizens,” Cruz’s statement said.

A panel composed of democratic candidates running for public office answered questions from concerned citizens who attended.The topics brought up by the audience ranged from banning AR-15’s, appealing the second amendment and the current state of gun legislation and reform today.

“If you are using an AR-15 to blow up human beings, to blow up children, there will be no viewing, we don’t need citizens with AR-15’s,” said Tawana Cadien, a Democratic candidate for the Texas 10th US Congressional District.

Additionally mental health and gun background checks were recurring questions that audience members pressed.

“I would push back on the idea that these shootings are chalked up to mental health issues. I think what we do have is some people with some very ill and hateful intent,” said Mike Siegel, a Democrat running for Congress in the 10th Congressional District.

“Honestly there are some folks who just ‘go postal’ as we used to say but I’m also very concerned about the rise of white supremacy in our country contributing to these mass shootings,” Siegel added.

The student organizers of this event went beyond demanding action for common sense gun safety laws; their goal is to educate their fellow student peers of the importance of voting and their position in the legislative process.

“We are looking towards making an organization that will help young people become politically involved through getting them registered to vote and out and active in their civic engagement,” said Jack Kappelman a lead student organizer of the event.

“In such a politically divided time I think that it is necessary that we all have some more unity in our democracy,” said Kappelman.