News Local/State

C-U Area Students Host Town Hall On Gun Violence

More than 100 people sitting in chairs in the Champaign public library.

More than 100 people attended a town hall on gun violence hosted by students from the University for Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and five area high schools at the Champaign Public Library on April 5, 2018. Daniel Baker / Illinois Public Media

A student organized town hall on gun violence attracted a crowd of more than 100 people to the Champaign Public Library Thursday night. The event was hosted by students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and five area high schools.

The town hall featured close to a dozen speakers, including students, community members and local officials. The panelists focused on their own experiences with gun violence, and what they believe needs to be done to stop it. Much of the conversation centered around pushing for stronger gun control measures at the local and federal level.

A freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Abby Weber, urged the crowd to contact their state legislators and ask them to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that, if enacted, would regulate Illinois gun stores. Weber, who is a member of the university’s Students Against Gun Violence organization -- a group that helped organize the town hall -- said a single law won’t bring an end to gun violence. She said it will take a much larger effort and that students are prepared to fight to end the causes of gun violence for as long as it takes.

“We will continue marching in Illinois until gun violence is no longer part of our backyards, no longer part of our schools and no longer part of our lives,” Weber said.

The event was organized after survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida called for nationwide town halls on gun violence. In the weeks that followed the Parkland shooting, Urbana District 116 superintendent Don Owen said his inbox was flooded with emails from people offering to install metal detectors, bullet proof glass and safe rooms inside Urbana schools.

Owen said he students to feel safe and and secure both in their communities and their schools, but, “I don’t want to be an educator in a school that looks like a prison.”

Democratic candidate for the 13th Congressional District, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, spoke at the event. She said she wants to keep military grade weapons “out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.” An attendee asked Londrigan to clarify her statement during the question and answer portion of the event.

“I don’t know anybody outside the military who needs military grade weapons,” Londrigan said.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Rodney Davis did not attend the event. During an interview with the 21st Show, Davis said he believes the focus should be on tightening existing gun laws.

Students from Champaign-Urbana area high schools are planning a school walk-out and a teach-in at the Krannert Center in Urbana on April 20. The event is intended to educate students about existing gun legislation and ways to lobby lawmakers for changes.