Commonwealth Times panel on gun laws draws high profile panelists

Graphic by Ryan Rich.
Graphic by Ryan Rich.

This Friday, The Commonwealth Times, VCU’s award-winning student press, will host “Beyond Politics,” a town-hall-style panel discussion on gun violence in the United States.

The forum will look to respond to America’s gun violence crisis with a civil and solution-oriented tone. It will be an opportunity for students and faculty to engage in discourse regarding the root causes of mass shootings, why the United States is uniquely prone to them, and what policy solutions can be taken to address them.

“We’re looking forward to this event because we know it’s a topic students at VCU and around the country care about,” said Sophia Belletti, executive editor of The Commonwealth Times. “The event’s name reflects young people’s frustration with the stagnant nature of conversations surrounding a harrowing reality in this country.”

The panelists include John Aughenbaugh, political science professor; Lori Haas, director of the Virginia Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Jessica Smith, a doctoral candidate in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Aughenbaugh teaches constitutional law and public policy courses at VCU and formerly taught at Virginia Tech. He has presented at a number of academic conferences and has public law entries published in various academic encyclopedias. He is working on journal manuscripts related to the federal courts’ impact on the work of bureaucrats, public administration service learning, as well as state research and development tax credit programs. 

Haas has worked for the Virginia Coalition to Stop Gun Violence since 2010, an organization advocating the right to live in communities free from gun violence. Her daughter was shot and survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 prompting her efforts to promote awareness of the issue. She has worked with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Virginia Center for Public Safety, Protest Easy Guns, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. She also lobbies for responsible gun laws on Capitol Hill in Washington and before the Virginia General Assembly.

Smith is a doctoral student and graduate teaching assistant at VCU. She formerly worked for the state as the Public Safety Initiatives Coordinator at the Attorney General’s Office and as the School, Campus, and Public Safety Resource Specialist at the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety within the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Smith is also the President and Lead Presenter at School and Public Safety Training Solutions, a small business which provides various public safety training to law enforcement and educators throughout the Commonwealth.

Van Cleave joined the Virginia Citizens Defense League in 1995, a year after it was founded. The non-partisan, grassroots organization works to advance the right of Virginians to keep and bear arms. In 2004 he was awarded the Gun Rights Defender of the Month Award from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He frequently lobbies for gun rights in the Virginia General Assembly.

The discussion will be moderated by CT Managing Editor, Fadel Allassan and will take place in room 1100 of the Academic Learning Commons (MCALC) at VCU on 1000 Floyd Ave.

“The last month has underscored the notion that young people have a voice when it comes to issues which affect their future,” said Allison Dyche, director of student media at VCU. “Their voices matter in this conversation.”


SaraRose Martin, News Editor

1 Comment

  1. Do you routinely create and post transcripts of your events? It would be most helpful. Please let me know if you transcribe these events and post anywhere.

    Thanks for hosting the discussion.

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