Students organize 'Town Hall for our Lives"

Students organize 'Town Hall for our Lives"
Source: NBC12

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It may be spring break for students all over Central Virginia, but a group of students in the Richmond area are continuing to work, organizing town halls to discuss gun violence and gun control.

"I want our generation to speak out and make our voices heard so we can get the change we need, so that chance of having a school shooting goes from one percent to zero," explained Chaz Nuttycombe, a senior at Hanover High School.

There is a large network of students who have taken a lead in the March for our Lives movement in RVA, planning student walkouts and now "Town Hall for our Lives." The town halls are happening in cities and counties all over the country, led and planned by students.

"I thought it would be a movement for keeping our schools safe, but it's not just that. It's helping our black communities and those disproportionately affected by gun violence," explained Stephanie Younger, a 15-year-old who works with the Richmond Peace Education Center. "It continues to happen to marginalized groups, and I want to uplift the voices of the black community who has been fighting for gun reform for generations."

They have communicated with their peers through social media and other platforms to encourage them to get involved, and they have also contacted candidates and elected officials to come and listen to their constituents.

"We want our leaders to come to these town halls and listen to us," said Nuttycombe. "They can't be afraid of our opinions, as some representatives have made it clear that they are. We need to be heard."

The first town hall will be held Saturday, April 7 at 4 p.m. at the Libbie Mill Library in Henrico. Democratic congressional candidates Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward have confirmed their attendance. The students say they reached out to Congressman Dave Brat, who declined their invitation.

In an email, a spokesperson for Brat said, "he is highly interested in finding a solution to the violence" and referenced a discussion Brat had with mental health experts, school superintendents, board members and law enforcement.

"We want our leaders to realize that we're not going to stop and we need them to stand with us," explained Emmaline Clark, a 16-year-old at Richmond Community High School. "We want this town hall, and we want all of the actions we're going to take from here on out to unify us."

The students say they have lived in a time where mass shootings have devastated communities, and it is something they want to see end through tougher gun laws. The students say they want to see the purchasing age raised, more extensive background checks, and bans on certain weapons.

"We're not trying to take away your guns. We're trying to keep ourselves safe by limiting who can get guns and what guns can be available, " explained Clark.

Clark says her involvement in the movement started from the tragedy in Parkland, Florida and wanting to give a voice, but throughout her life, she has watched her peers and community deal with gun violence, and now she can no longer stay silent.

"It's a non-partisan issue. We want it to be everyone, regardless of where you stand," explained Clark. "I spoke at the walkout and the march, and I am going to continue to speak and I encourage everyone to vote, even though I can't vote yet."

A second Town Hall for our Lives will be held on April 21 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Richmond Alternative Program for District 4 residents.

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