By Audrey Bernstein ’20

An Elementary School in St. John’s Michigan. A school bus in Forest City, Iowa. Grayson College in Denison, Texas. Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky. A middle school in Los Angeles. With each week of January, schools across the nation, endured the consequences of gun violence firsthand.
In an effort to address recent gun violence, the students of Cathy Schager’s Contemporary World class hosted an event on Jan. 29 entitled “Disarm Gun Violence: Educating the Public About Common Sense Gun Laws.” The event included a panel discussion amongst local officials and a documentary about gun violence.
“During first semester, there was so much gun violence, with [the] Texas shooting and the Las Vegas shooting,” Contemporary World student Alexandra Milberg ’18 said. “[The class] all felt very passionate about the topic and felt like action needed to be taken.”
Classmate Avery Shuldman ’18 shares similar sentiments and emphasized the importance of the discussion following recent events.
“In our society today, we see shootings happening all over the country, some barely even making the news,” she said. “We can’t keep waiting for the next mass shooting to happen to actually do something.”
According to social studies teacher and attendee of the forum David Willick, the event addressed issues such as collective action that may be taken and laws that may be enacted to reduce gun violence.
Selectwoman Melissa Kane, Deputy Police Chief Sam Arciola, attorney for Sandy Hook families John Koskoff and Jonathan Perloe, member of Connecticut Against Gun Violence, all attended the event.
According to event moderator Nicole Arellano ’18, in December, the class decided to host the event, and its preparation began in January.
The forum was not Schager’s class’ first attempt to address gun violence within Westport, though. Prior to the event, the students hung a poster in the Staples hallway, which depicted children’s lives lost due to gun violence.
although the class has ended, Arellano does not believe that her work is done. “This event was only a ripple in a big ocean of things that need to be done in terms of legislation and education,” she said.
Kane holds the same belief that more must be done to combat gun violence. “I am currently working with our police chief on potential local policy change and ordinances to make our community even safer with regard to gun violence,” she said.
While Kane and Arellano believe that the fight against gun violence is not over, Willick expressed the event’s immediate success. “I think that some people were more informed after they left [the event], for sure,” Willick said, “and I think the students got a lot out of it because they were able to put on such an event and hear from outside speakers.”

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