A panel that included Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a principal who lost her brother to gun violence, and a local high school student took part in a town hall forum Thursday night. It was part of the national wave seeking to find a solution to gun violence following the deaths of 17 people in a high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month.
TOWN HALL REPLAY: Students Stopping Gun Violence
"People shoot people because you feel alone. You shoot because you feel afraid. You shoot because you're trying to make a change in an environment you feel you don't have control over. We just need to add some degree of control," said Gregory Pleasant, a junior at Rainier Beach High School who was part of the panel.
A question that came up a couple of different times focused on what students and schools can do if they hear about a threat. That's something a lot of schools, students, and parents have been thinking in recent weeks.
Those on stage Thursday night agreed the process of reporting needs work.
"I do think we can do a better job," said Nyla Fritz, principal of Einstein Middle School in Shoreline. Her brother, Arnold, was killed in a school shooting in Moses Lake in 1996. "And to our students, to our young people and to our parents, we need to continue to send the message that there is no joke when it comes to any of these situations with threats. That they need to be taken seriously and they have to be reported."
"I wouldn't know," Pleasant said. "Go tell the principal. It's not something we talk about in classrooms. Maybe it's something that we need to."
Another big question that came up is what can be done in the city of Seattle since national legislation has stalled, along with state legislation. The enhanced background check for assault weapons is one example of a bill that stalled in the Washington legislative session, which ended Thursday night.
"We're looking at what we can do in area of safe storage. We're looking at how we can increase information so people know they can get those emergency protective orders," Durkan said about what can be done at the city level. "We've already taxed ammunition. We did that, not to regulate guns, but to get money to fund public safety."
One of the most common things heard from the panel was creating opportunities for young people in every community.
"The lack of opportunity is a huge part, and we also have to realize that it is driven by decades of systematic racism and cultural unawareness. And until we have people who look like the youth who are mentoring them, talking to them, available to them, showing them that they can succeed, we won't change it," Durkan said.
Pleasant added that in his neighborhood, the fear is not just about safety at school.
"It's, 'Am I going to get shot when I walk down the street? Can I go to the store? Can I go to practice and not have to worry about walking home at 8, 9 o'clock at night?'" Pleasant said.