One of the initiatives to keep the gun violence prevention movement going took shape on Tuesday night when the first "Town Hall For Our Lives," hosted by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, opened its microphones to the community.
The Town Hall For Our Lives Project, sponsored by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students and the March For Our Lives organizers, calls for town hall-style meetings to discuss gun control initiatives in every congressional district in America between March 23 and April 9, a period when members of Congress are supposed to be back in their districts for Spring recess. According to organizers, these meetings have been scheduled in 111 congressional districts around the country so far.
After leading a packed theater in the pledge of allegiance, Deutch broke down while reading the names of the 17 victims from the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Deutch serves Parkland and its surrounding cities in Congress.
He was joined by local government officials, as well as Stoneman Douglas parents and students like Leonor Muñoz. She asked for more mental health resources.
“It’s right around this time when the shock has worn off and the depression has set in that a lot of us are not doing well,” she said. “And I want to know what is being done to ensure that trauma trained psychologists are available for every student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.”
Deutch responded, “The availability of trained psychologists is something that you deserve. I hear the same things from teachers and families at neighborhood schools as well.”
Members of the audience - like Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, CEO of the Children's Services Council of Broward County, who wasn’t on the program but was in the room to listen - also offered Muñoz help to secure resources through Broward 2-1-1, and officials reassured her that more trauma psychologists are currently being trained in Broward County.
There were also a handful of protesters at the meeting, including Coral Springs resident Trish Ferri. She says she’s against restrictions on guns.
“Ted Deutch is against guns, so I’m trying to fight against it,” she said. “The March For Our Lives is an anti-gun protest, and they used the shooting as a political matter.”
Deutch promised students at the town hall that he will organize a meeting between them and Broward County School Board members, who were not present because of their own scheduled meeting.
More Town Halls For Our Lives meetings are set to happen in South Florida this week, hosted by members of Congress:
- At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson will host a town hall at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex Auditorium, 3000 NW 199th St. in Miami Gardens.
- At 2 p.m. on Saturday April 7, there will be a town hall at Vizcaya Clubhouse, 15150 Michelangelo Blvd. in Delray Beach, with congressional candidates set to speak via Skype.
- Also at 2 p.m. on Saturday April 7, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will host a town hall at the Weston Community Center at Weston Regional Park, 20200 Saddle Club Rd.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct Leonor Muñoz's name.