Teenagers from high schools across Spokane peppered Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., with questions on gun control Thursday at Ferris High School.
Some of the students at the School Safety Youth Forum asked the congresswoman what measures were being taken to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Others wanted to know how their respective schools could be safer.
McMorris Rodgers, who fielded questions alongside Sheriff Ozzie Knozovich and Jamie Yotz, a mental health counselor with Frontier Behavioral Health, stood firm in her support of the National Rifle Association, and asked the students what they believe is leading to gun violence.
“When we see someone that needs help, we reach out before they commit violent acts,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Asked if she would stop accepting money from the NRA, McMorris Rodgers answered in the negative.
“What the NRA does is protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns,” McMorris-Rodgers answered. “That’s what their rule is. They have supported me.”
Around 150 people were at the forum, which took place in the Ferris High commons area.
Knezovich said that taking away AR-15s wouldn’t solve the problem of school shootings, drawing calls of “No, but it’d be a start” from adults in the audience.
One woman told a yelling man that, “Hey, this for the kids,” before he accused her of harassing him. He soon walked out.
“We talked about background checks. That system is broken,” Knezovich said in answer to a question from the audience. “If it wasn’t broken, then I would have an explanation for why an individual under mental health care was able to purchase a weapon.”
“Until we start taking these issues seriously, we’re all at risk,” he said.
Greg Johnson, a senior at Ferris, suggested armed resourced officers.
“Most are retired cops, so why aren’t they allowed to carry guns?” Johnson said. “If we put retired veterans in front of the school, armed, that’s a big deterrent. The Pulse nightclub shooter was going to shoot up Disney World, but didn’t because of the guard. We protect our president with guns, so why not our students?”
“I thought (the forum) was very tense,” said Alyssa Mitchell, a senior at East Valley High School, shortly after the forum had concluded. “I expected it to be because it’s such a polarizing issue, but I think they answered the questions the best they could.”
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