BOZTEPE: Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman has interesting views regarding Parkland
Opinions Column: Kaanotations
For the last few weeks, the phrase on everyone’s tongue has been gun control. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) of district 12 New Jersey shared her views on gun control, the obstacles faced in being able to regulate it and her stance and hopes as she greeted and answered questions from students who showed up to her town hall in the East Brunswick Community Center. Coleman shared her agenda and had a panel of speakers, which included Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, the superintendent of the New Jersey State police. Many students filled the seats of the auditorium and eventually lined up to ask the congresswoman questions, and she gratefully thanked them for their questions and answered each one asked.
Coleman began by stating that the one positive thing that came out from this catastrophe was the Never Again movement, as a sense of urgency regarding guns has begun to sweep the nation. She believes that Parkland is not isolated, it could happen anywhere, and courageous students must continue to speak and if we do so we will be heard. After a few facts were stated, such as there being more than 14-27 school shootings within the new year, Coleman said we must take a counter terrorism approach toward it.
She continued and made note that Parkland was the third safest place for kids to live in within Florida. She said that we treat the crisis, not the cause when she began to talk about mental health. Mental health is another one of those trigger phrases that have been used when discussing gun laws, yet no new fundings have gone into mental health as of yet. She also stated that she agreed with President Donald J. Trump’s policy plans with gun regulations within the state of Florida but made it clear that she believes we need more than what he is offering. As of now, Trump has not passed any of the legislation he discussed after the shooting in Parkland.
Coleman went back to her point about isolation and gave the shooting at Central Michigan University as an example. A sophomore student killed his parents, took his father's gun and killed two students in the dormitory section of the school before being brought down and taken into custody. The Parkland shooting occurred on Feb. 14 and the Michigan shooting occurred less than a month later on March 2.
Coleman advocated the importance of voting, as well as telling your family, friends and acquaintances to also vote. The more involved everyone is, the less wiggle room elected officials have. Officials are under scrutiny on their views of gun laws and policies and if they are getting any funds by the National Rifle Association (NRA), because the NRA is the main and strongest supporter in keeping with current gun laws. Other guests on the panel explained that people that are hurt tend to hurt people, such as Callahan, who explained that emotion is human, not feminine and what he tries to teach his cops is that we are not above others, therefore we must lead with compassion. He believes that we must navigate emotions and lead by example. As for the backlash students have been receiving during the Never Again movement, Callahan and Coleman both stated that students want to be safe and there is nothing political about that.
East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen also made a short and powerful statement regarding what the real obstacle is in creating policy and bills that can improve gun safety and dramatically decrease the gun epidemic the United States has been experiencing for the last decade. Cohen thanked all the parents and students for showing up but explained that their advocacy must surpass only speaking to Coleman, because she already has a failing grade from the NRA. The congresswoman does not take any money from the NRA and or tobacco companies and is a huge advocate in ensuring the safety of her constituents and surrounding communities. Cohen pleads the crowd to research those congresswoman and congressman within the state and outside, if possible, that have received a passing grade from the NRA and consistently take donations from them. He believes that the NRA is the problem, especially with the benefits that come from being a part of their organization, along with the hefty donations given to politicians for funding and races for re-election.
The town hall was closed off by Coleman, who stated the importance of reaching out to elected officials, especially those who are funded by the NRA, so that we can make a clear statement that they will lose our vote if they continue to take donations. Students must make sure to organize well and continue to speak with the poise and articulation that has been seen from the Parkland survivors. Bad actors can come and try to disrupt the marches that will be held in honor of Parkland, but she says to not allow yourselves to be distracted by opposition, rather, stay focused on the bigger goal.
Kaan Jon Boztepe is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in philosophy and history. His column, "Kaanotations," runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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