RIVERDALE, Md. — Following the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, many high school students across the country — and in the D.C. area — held walkout protests and rallies.
But Friday, students at Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, took a measured look at gun violence, school safety and related problems during a town hall-style event.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin voiced his positions on the issues, while also listening to students’ concerns and explaining the inherent complexities.
“The Parkland students felt that we shouldn’t have military-style weapons,” said Cardin, the event’s guest. “I agree with them.”
He also said he supports universal background checks, and devoting additional resources to identify and treat mental illness.
Cardin appealed to students to make mental illness one of their top concerns. “We need you on this one, because you’re not as engaged on mental health as you are on the other social changes and cultural changes we’ve seen in our community,” such as the acceptance of LGBT individuals, he said.
“We talk more openly in regards to cancer or strokes … than we do about severe depression and other forms of mental health problems,” Cardin added. “We’ve got to get over that.”
Cardin also warned that adding resources in any area will have its costs, which could lead to higher taxes. “People don’t like paying taxes,” he said.
Students voiced concerns ranging from young teens illegally obtaining handguns, to the feasibility of more metal detectors in schools, to questions about what a political party can accomplish while in the minority.
While explaining that many ideas will run into resistance, Cardin nevertheless offered encouragement. “I really do think that Parkdale can join the students from Florida and make a difference,” he said.
Cardin said he believes the votes are there in Congress for universal background checks and action on assault weapons, and called on Republican leaders to bring the bills up.