4 takeaways from “Beyond the Politics”

The Commonwealth Times, in conjunction with the VCU Student Media Center, held a discussion on mass shootings and gun violence in America. Students and faculty engaged in a discussion about 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. Panelists: John Aughenbaugh, VCU Political Science Jessica Smith, VCU Wilder School Kayla Hicks, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Philip Van Cleave, Virginia Citizens Defense League Photo by Erin Edgerton
Lori Haas, Jessica Smith, John Aughenbaugh and Philip Van Cleave participating in the “Beyond the Politics” gun panel discussion. Photo by Erin Edgerton

The Commonwealth Times held a panel discussion Friday to talk about America’s gun crisis in response to the Parkland school shooting last month. The event featured four panelists ranging from liberal, moderate and conservative. It proved that organized discussions provide for important and productive conversations that can potentially lead to change.


1. Student newspapers can serve as a forum for tough discussions

The event was organized by VCU’s independent student newspaper with contributions from other student media organizations. Student media feel passionate about giving a voice to people in order to start conversations and promote change. The event let people share their thoughts and ideas with other people in an environment they otherwise may not have been able to.


2. While we disagree on many issues, we can agree on some

Putting people with opposing feelings on the same topic in a room together sounds daunting. But the panelists and audience members were willing to hear from the other side instead of ruling out their opinions from the start. All panelists agreed there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Although their solutions were different, the fact that there is a gun problem in America was acknowledged by all parties.


3. Having productive conversations leads to a sense of excitement and readiness for change among individuals

At the end of the discussion, everyone was eager to continue speaking to each other. Audience members approached each other and the panelists to gain more insight and keep the conversation moving. There was a clear feeling of a need for change and this discussion allowed everyone to discuss the most effective way of making that happen.


4. The students in the audience carried themselves with more maturity and patience than some of the older audience members

Towards the end of the event, the moderator opened the discussion up to audience members. After seeing the number of hands that went up given the little time left for the event, he clarified that it would be open to only students since it was an event intended for students. An older member of the audience shouted out that it was unfair and others verbally agreed. The students were respectful and continued to ask meaningful questions that were intended to get answers, not belittle anyone. Some other members of the audience were not able to do that.


Katie Bashista
Katie is a junior pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in political science. She enjoys writing about current events, especially regarding anything that’s happening in Richmond. She hopes to someday write for a major publication in a big city. When she’s not writing you can find her at a local Richmond show or trying out a new recipe she found on Facebook.

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