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Future of anti-gun violence movement discussed at LI town halls

" data-access="metered" data-pid="1.17912998" data-videobyline="Newsday / Danielle Finklestein" data-ppubdate="2018-04-09" data-onairtalent="" poster="!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.jpg" data-alt="At a "Town Hall For Our Lives" meeting" controls> At a "Town Hall For Our Lives" meeting

At a "Town Hall For Our Lives" meeting in Rockville Centre on Saturday, April 7, 2018, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder encouraged the public to report suspicious social media posts or other behavior directly to the Nassau Police Department's hotline or its Facebook or Instagram pages. He said that already, a teacher had reported a student who was posing with a gun in a social media post, and three weapons were seized from the home of that student. Credit: Newsday / Danielle Finklestein

A discussion on the future of the anti-gun-violence movement brought about 100 students, lawmakers and other Long Islanders to a Rockville Centre town hall hosted by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) on Saturday.

“We do not want to let the momentum that was so ferocious after Parkland dissolve,” Kaminsky told a packed room in the Rockville Centre Public Library, referring to the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February that killed 17 people.

“It’s what we do from here that’s going to matter,” he said.

The event, dubbed “Town Hall for Our Lives,” was one of many held across the country Saturday to sustain the momentum of the anti-gun-violence movement catalyzed by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The meetings, called for by Parkland survivor David Hogg, followed large student-led demonstrations for gun control in cities and towns nationwide two weeks ago, including rallies in Huntington and Farmingdale.

How to turn the energy of those marches into meaningful change was a central question at the Rockville Centre event.

“This topic shouldn’t die down,” said Crystina Windham, 14, a freshman at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School.

“What’s going to come next?” she asked.

For Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), one answer was keeping the pressure up on elected leaders to pass stricter gun control measures.

“You have to hold us accountable,” he said. “You have to demand that the wisdom of those students becomes a reality in this country,” he said, referring to Hogg and other survivors of the Parkland shooting who have since pushed for gun law reforms.

Julia Baxley, a senior at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, called on politicians and adults generally to seek out greater dialogue with young people on the issue.

“We’re the ones that have to go through the lockdown drills,” said Baxley, 18.

“Talk to us. We know a lot about this and we want to be involved,” she said.

Nassau County police Commissioner Patrick Ryder encouraged students to communicate with local law enforcement if they see potential threats to school safety.

He said he did not support stationing armed police officers in schools. Instead, he said his department was working to “harden” school security, familiarize officers with school facilities and train school staff on what to do in the case of a shooting.

Another gun control town hall was held in St. James on Saturday. The speakers included Paul Guttenberg of Commack, whose niece, Jaime Guttenberg, was among those killed in Parkland.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was invited to attend, but the congressman did not, said Julia Fenster, an event organizer.

Despite the gun violence that occasioned the meetings, many at the Rockville Centre event expressed optimism about their ability to effect change on the issue, including Robert Gaafar, a survivor of a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas last year.

“It’s not going to happen today, it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it will happen,” he said.

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