Cleveland-area students host gun reform town hall on Columbine shooting anniversary

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cleveland-area students are hosting a gun reform town hall on Friday to allow lawmakers to hear from the community on issues of gun violence and mental health.

The non-partisan town hall is at Affinity Missionary Baptist Church located at 4411 East 175th St. on Cleveland's east side. The event goes from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. A number of Ohio politicians, on both sides of the aisle, were invited to attend. Several have said they'll be in attendance.

"Gun violence takes on many forms and impacts everybody," said Emma Duhamel, a student at Shaker Heights High School. Duhamel is also a member of the group Lobbying for A Safer Tomorrow.

The group formed after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Today also marks the 19th anniversary of the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

"We are specifically calling on a ban on bump stocks, a ban on assault rifles and the inability to have a gun if you're convicted of domestic violence," Duhamel said.

Duhamel wanted last month's anti-gun violence school walkouts to go to the next level. She and others recently went to Columbus to talk with lawmakers.

"Certain groups had different reactions depending on the lawmakers," Duhamel said. "I especially had wonderful interactions with State Representative Janine Boyd and State Senator Sandra Williams."

Katrina Cassell also played a role in organizing Friday's town hall.

"Lobbying for A Safer Tomorrow is about changing laws, but we hope through laws we can sort of change this perversion of gun violence that we have in the United States," Cassell said. "We're all for the second amendment. It's just sort of about putting in place common sense legislation, so these horrible atrocities don't continue to occur."

The students have been active in making sure their peers register to vote.

"There's a lot of debate in America about to whether this is a guns issue or whether this is a mental health issue," said student Christos Ioannou. "I think we need to realize that in America we have both a guns issue as well as a mental health issue. It's not just one or the other. It's not just black or white. There are many shades of gray."

The students said they're pleased with efforts in Columbus to make it easier for authorities to take away gun from individuals deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The so-called Red Flag bill is still in the hearing phase in the Ohio Senate. Opponents have voiced concerns over due process and people being wrongly targeted.

The students are also pleased with efforts by the U.S. Justice Department to ban bump stocks.

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