TO THE EDITOR:
The Institute of Politics’ upcoming Reverse Town Hall on Gun Violence is unconventional, but it shouldn’t be. Not often do our representatives hear directly from their constituents, but the goal of this event is just that: to amplify student voices from within the walls of our classrooms to the chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly. In the current climate of polarization and skepticism about our politics, the recent surge in youth activism is a revival our government desperately needs. When we dwell on our political differences, we forget how to listen to one another. But we, as students, can demonstrate that listening to each other not only improves our civic life, but it forces our legislators to take us seriously.
This weekend, the Institute of Politics is providing an opportunity for students to be heard: a Reverse Town Hall on Gun Violence this Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Stone Center. The “reverse” aspect of the event refers to the style of the conversation. Rather than the typical dynamic of audience members questioning policymakers, this discussion will give legislators the opportunity to ask questions to their youngest constituents. It will be a time for these politicians to listen, not speak. We commend the four members of the NCGA who are participating in this first Reverse Town Hall, and we hope it is the first of many similar conversations leading up to North Carolina’s midterms this fall.
Last week, the editorial board wrote on the increasing role adolescents are playing in the policy debates gripping our nation. Students are at the forefront of conversations about gun violence following the tragic high school shooting in Parkland. The IOP, similarly, will not let this youth-led momentum go unnoticed.
As such, we are bringing together 17 students from institutions across the state to offer their unique perspectives on gun violence. One panelist, Justin Blackman, made national headlines in March after he was the only student at Wilson Preparatory Academy to participate in the national school walkout. Justin will join eight other sophomores, juniors and seniors from high schools around North Carolina. The rest of the group consists of UNC students representing a wide variety of organizations on campus, including the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club, College Republicans, Young Democrats and the Black Student Movement. While this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it provides a basis for how policy discussions in our state may look in the future.