Erie-area Students Host Town Hall


Students in the Erie Coalition participate in the Town Hall Meeting.

Maddy Bruce, Editor In Chief

On the evening of April 24, 11 high school students, about 40 Erie county citizens, and two politicians gathered in Strong Vincent Middle School’s auditorium for a town hall meeting on gun reform. The meeting was bipartisan, and people of both political parties were encouraged to listen to the politicians and pose their own questions.

The town hall was hosted by the Erie County Student Coalition, a newly formed group of students from nine Erie-area high schools, including GM, McDowell, Girard, Harborcreek, Collegiate Academy, North East, Villa, Fairview, and Union City. The group was formed while students from each school were planning their walkouts for March 14. Since then, they have organized an inter-school trip to D.C. for the March for Our Lives and hosted a town hall, and they’re just getting started.

The town hall on April 24 included democratic candidate for PA’s third congressional district, Chris Rieger, and Tim Butler, a representative for incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, who was unable to attend due to Congress being in session.

“I was inspired by the March for Our Lives event in Erie a few weeks prior, where the only speakers were those under age twenty. It was, and still is, heartening to see so many young people finally speak up on an issue that directly affects them,” said Rieger on his incentive to participate in the student-led town hall.

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The town hall started out with questions from the students, who sat to the left of the candidates on the stage. Their questions ranged from asking whether the candidates supported arming teachers to raising the age limit on gun purchases to banning bump stocks. Then, it was the audience’s turn to ask questions, which they wrote on notecards, to be read by the student moderator. Both Butler and Reiger expressed their views (in Butler’s case, Mike Kelly’s) on subjects like arming teachers, mental health treatment, and banning bump stocks. On some things, such as mental health treatment, they agreed. But, on others, like arming teachers, they did not. However, the students and the public was given a chance to see where local politicians stand on important issues and decide who they want to vote for come election day.

“The town hall was an immensely positive experience, primarily because the activism and courage of young adults taking part in democracy,” said Rieger. “Important issues are not going away because the students are keeping them in everyone’s mind.”

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