UMN hosts gun violence town hall

Gun violence and Second Amendment rights in Minnesota and on campus sparked debate at the meeting.

<p>Law School professor Christopher J. Roberts speaks to the audience at the Town Hall on Gun Violence hosted by the University's Human Rights Program on Monday, March 26 in Walter F. Mondale Hall. The program held the event to create conversations on campus about gun violence.</p>

Ellen Schmidt

Law School professor Christopher J. Roberts speaks to the audience at the Town Hall on Gun Violence hosted by the University's Human Rights Program on Monday, March 26 in Walter F. Mondale Hall. The program held the event to create conversations on campus about gun violence.

Isabella Murray

Following the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. and affiliate marches on Saturday, the University of Minnesota joined the nationwide discussion on gun violence by hosting a town hall meeting. 

The town hall, held in a Mondale Hall classroom on Monday, was moderated by Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program in the University’s College of Liberal Arts. The discussion focused on gun violence in Minnesota and on campus, as well as Second Amendment rights.

Students, faculty members and community members asked questions and engaged in discussion after sets of panel members presented opening remarks about the three topics.

“Gun violence is an issue I’ve always been passionate about preventing. Parkland is close to where I grew up in Florida, so it hit home for me,” said Hannah Rigatti, a University graduate student who attended the event. 

Minneapolis School Board member Don Samuels, Protect Minnesota representative Ellen Samuelson Young, and retired University professor Dr. Steven Miles first addressed gun violence in Minnesota. 

“There are too many guns in the community,” Miles said. “The laws that have the effect of reducing that around the country do not infringe upon constitutional rights.” 

After the panel, students and community members engaged in discussion on topics like police-community relations, rights for hunters and gun reform at the state Capitol. 

Frey asked for respect from members of the audience multiple times as the discussion heated up. 

“Sometimes I find it difficult to talk about things like this when I know that the underlying problem is so deep and not related to the actual numbers, when in fact we’re just a sick country,” Samuels said.

Minnesota Student Association member James Farnsworth discussed campus climate around gun violence in his student capacity. He and other students raised just over $13,000 through a GoFundMe account to send buses of students to the national march. 

Farnsworth focused on the importance of student-driven advocacy and the University of Minnesota Police Department’s Community Engagement Team. 

“I think setting up that team has been an integral step in moving forward. Something about this movement feels different,” he said. “[Parkland] happened to students who could speak for themselves.” 

UMPD Sergeant Jim Nystrom later discussed campus gun policies at the town hall. 

“You cannot have weapons on campus, period, unless you are law enforcement, even as a conceal-and-carry permit holder,” he said. 

Discussions became heated again after panelist presentations brought up issues like arming professors and students and Second Amendment rights.

At the end of the town hall, Frey reiterated to the audience that the meeting was about gun violence, not the Second Amendment.