Town hall delves into solving gun violence in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Town hall delves into solving gun violence in Nevada County

Differing viewpoints were aired and possible solutions discussed during a wide-ranging town hall forum on preventing gun violence.

While the panelists did not reach consensus on proposed solutions, they did find common ground on one thing: the need to continue the conversation.

"One of the key takeaways is this is a start," Nevada County Superior Court Judge Tom Anderson said after moderating the two-hour event Friday. "One thing we learned is that there are many different views, and many things that need to be done. There is no one solution.

"It is clear that as a community we all care — and that is the starting point," Anderson continued, adding that it is imperative to speak up and speak with each other.

The town hall, held in Nevada City's council chambers, was hosted by Foothills Arts Resources & Media, a nonprofit group whose stated mission is "to provide professional assistance and funding to local projects that benefit our community."

The panelists were Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign; Carla Holtzclaw, school safety trainer and consultant; George Rebane, lifelong NRA member and Second Amendment scholar; Morgan Margulies, captain of the Nevada Union debate team and president of the social justice club; Jerod Johnson, owner of The Range; and Michael Gomez, retired law enforcement, FBI and DOJ member.

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Margulies, a senior at Nevada Union who is the student representative on the high school district board of trustees, talked about organizing the walkout event at his school last month, saying his peers are not just reacting out of fear, but because they have analyzed the way gun violence has become an epidemic.

"They feel as if there is tragedy after tragedy and the only thing the schools are getting are thoughts and prayers, rather than legislative action that shows the country actually cares about their safety," he said.

Margulies noted that the national walkout involved students coming together to demand change and honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting. He said the students who participated reflected a lot of different viewpoints, and do not necessarily agree on solution. But, he said, there is a collective acknowledgement there has to be a solution.

Arm teachers, volunteers?

Part of the discussion revolved around how the community can make schools safer — including drills revolving around tactics such as "ALICE" (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate), a protocol that encourages students to throw books, for example, to disarm an assailant, or "run-hide-fight."Questions about using veterans or other volunteers as security, or arming teachers, drew spirited debate.

Wilcox said she is not opposed to armed security, and supports training and safety plans.

But, she said, it is more important to prevent active shooter situations in the first place, with multi-pronged approach that includes mental health services and restricting access to guns.

"We must protect the children," said Johnson, arguing a police officer should be stationed at every school campus. "A courthouse has armed guards and metal detectors … But our children have nothing."

Rebane and Johnson supported training and arming teachers.

"Schools become victims because they are soft targets," Johnson said. "The shooter knows they will get no armed resistance."

Rebane agreed, saying a gun-free zone sign is just an invitation to trouble.

"We need guns to stop guns," he said.

Wilcox argued the risks involved in arming teachers outweigh the perceived benefits, a position echoed by Margulies, who cited recent incidents involving armed teachers that, he said, only increased the danger on campus.

Holtzclaw advocated against the idea, noting that if teachers are trained to teach, not to defend school campuses.

Legislation also became a hot topic, with some clear divisions opening up between the panelists.

Johnson said he is not opposed to background checks, but argued California's system in antiquated and unreasonable. That leads to people buying firearms out of state or under the table, he said.

"We do have the strongest laws in the nation," Wilcox said of California, arguing the 10-day waiting period is extremely important.

She said gun sales in the state are at all-time high, proving that the restrictions are not preventing responsible gun ownership.

"The gun debate, as so many other debates in governance, hinges on how different sides look at the world," Rebane said. "We need to see if we can look at the world the same way. We don't even agree on the facts. How do we come together and see the same things and solve the same problems, instead of talking past each other?"

Perhaps the answer is community policing­ ­— defined as "bringing people together with a solution agenda" — initiated by law enforcement, Gomez suggested.

"The conversation needs to continue," he concluded. "The common issue tonight has been we have an issue."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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