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Students Demand Action Hosts Gun Violence Prevention Panel With Vermont State Representatives

If you find this story interesting, you can go to to find more information about gun violence legislation. Linked here is a recording of the entire panel start to finish. 

Students Demand Action (SDA), a nonpartisan organization composed of young activists committed to ending gun violence, hosted a panel with Vermont State Representatives on February 12, 2024. 

The panel consisted of select members from Students Demand Action including seniors  Mia Cannizzaro, Lily Larsen, Jenna Hirschman, and Ava Schneider as well as juniors Samantha Donahey and Faith Moore.

The State Representatives at the panel were Alyssa Black (Chittenden-24), Lori Houghton (Chittenden-22), Karen Dolan (Chittenden-22), Leonora Dodge (Chittenden-23), Rey Garofano (Chittenden-23), and Julia Andrews (Chittenden-25).

From left to right: Rep. Andrews, Rep. Garafano, Rep. Houghton, Rep. Dolan, Rep. Black, and Rep. Dodge (Greg Maiberger)

The SDA members asked questions about current and future gun legislation and why this topic is important to each representative.

“Everyone has lived experiences that impact the way they feel about gun safety,” Hirschman said. “Why is taking legislative action to mitigate gun violence important to you personally?” 

Four representatives responded that it is important to them because they have at least one child currently going through the school system. Gun violence in schools is an issue dating back to the Columbine shooting and all of the legislatures voiced that it is still a present concern. 

 “I remember when there was the school shooting at Essex Elementary School,” Black said. “I literally live across the street from the elementary school, and my children were outside playing wiffle ball less than 50 yards from the school while the SWAT teams were going in.” 

Representative Black is referring to the Essex Elementary School shooting which occurred almost 18 years ago. Black experienced how gun violence can impact a community, but she also shared her own personal experience about her son who died by firearm.

“My 23-year-old son actually committed suicide with a firearm that he had purchased,” Black said. “You see gun violence as this outside force, but it came for me that day. It opened my eyes to the other parts of gun violence that you don’t think about.”

Black shared current statistics about gun violence. Sixty-five percent of deaths by a firearm in America are self-inflicted with 90% of deaths being self-inflicted in the state of Vermont. Black also expressed the fact that her son had no mental health issues at the time. This impulsivity is reflected in other self harm cases..This fueled her advocacy of the waiting period policy. 

“Last year we did a piece of legislation, Bill H230, which installed a waiting period in Vermont where you have to pass a background check then wait 72 hours before you can pick your firearm up,” Black said. “We know through research that suicide is most often impulsive, and so this provides a cooling off period for people who may want to harm themselves or others.” 

Despite suicide often being impulsive, there is still a connection between gun violence and mental health which prompted legislatures to fund different programs supporting children and adults with their mental health. 

Houghton, who is the chair of the House Health Care Committee, a committee that considers matters relating to health care, defined as an integrated, holistic system of care that includes policy development, led this funding operation. 

“We put increased funding into afterschool programs and activities because we know connection and community is really important to the well being of people,” Houghton said. “We’re also investing money into our system of care in order to help the flow of treatment, and we’re investing in a new youth inpatient psychiatric unit for co-occurring issues.” 

This legislation that the Healthcare Committee passed is a step in the right direction towards ending gun violence. Representative Black spoke more in-depth on red flag laws, where a “Vermont judge can issue an extreme risk protection order against someone who poses an imminent and extreme risk of harming themselves or others to prohibit them from buying, having, or receiving firearms or explosives.” 

“Another measure included in Bill H230 is the expansion of the red flag legislation so that family members also have the ability to directly petition the court,” Black said. “It’s most often a family member who first knows that someone is in crisis.” 

The final provision of Bill H230 considers gun violence from a domestic safety perspective. 

“We have a safe storage measure where if a firearm that is accessed by someone illegally is used in any type of threatening or harmful manner, the owner of that firearm would then be charged with a civil penalty containing various fines,” Black said. 

When enacting any type of legislation, it is important that legislators make sure that all viewpoints and voices are heard. One of the most important perspectives when dealing with gun violence, as Andrews describes, is the voices and opinions of hunters in our communities. 

“Not everyone who hunts believes that everyone should have access to a firearm,” Andrews said. “I can tell you that almost every adult male friend I have is a hunter, and I don’t know a single one of them that would take that position.”

The controversy between upholding the tradition of hunting and protecting people from gun violence is pivotal in the fight over firearm safety legislation, but Andrews believes that both of these can be upheld at the same time. 

 “I truly believe that gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and it’s impacting every single one of us,” said Garafano.

For more information visit For the full recording of this event, click here

 If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255 or 988. 

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Greg Maiberger
Greg Maiberger, Staff Writer
Greg Maiberger is a 9th grader and staff writer for The Hive. He is involved in Student Government and the AVPA program at EHS. In his free time he enjoys creating art, skiing, and playing volleyball. You can contact them at [email protected]
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