Central Stampede

U.S. Rep. Upton visits Friday afternoon for an in-depth discussion concerning school safety and gun violence

Teachers and student leaders of PC Republicans Club, Democrats Club and Student Council, come together to share thoughts

Samhita Sunkara, News Editor

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U.S. Rep. Fred Upton visited Friday afternoon to initiate a discussion about school safety and gun violence with Portage Central students and staff. Upton talked to leaders of Republicans Club, Democrats Club and Student Council, as well as some teachers and local law enforcement regarding their thoughts on the topic.

Upton began the discussion by briefing students and staff about the current efforts he is working on to push gun safety and control in Congress. Upton, a Republican from St. Joseph,  was newly elected as a co-chair of the school safety task force in a bipartisan group called the “Problem Solvers.” The group is set to look at 25 bills and pieces of legislation regarding guns and safety. Upton hopes that this meeting will bring some momentum to make changes to gun control.

“I’m hoping at a minimum we can get an expanded background check,” Upton said. “It’s something I have always supported.”

Upton also said he aims to review these bills in a bipartisan manner.  “We’re trying to build a consensus that moves the ball down the field on this issue,” Upton said.

Regarding gun control, Upton assured students that he is willing to go against the status quo and speak out when he disagrees with them.

“I’m not afraid to take on the NRA when I think they’re wrong,” Upton said. 

I’m not afraid to take on the NRA when I think they’re wrong.”

— U.S. Representative Fred Upton

Upton also mentioned implementing a “red flag” system, which would allow individuals to report suspicious behavior of a person and would be investigated by law enforcement. This could result in taking away guns from the person if anything suspicious is uncovered during the investigation.

“Indiana has this law, and I’m told that in some places in the country, it is used two to three times a week,” Upton said.

Many students during the discussion agreed that this law should be implemented in Michigan, as it may allow high schoolers to report suspicious behavior that may compromise the school’s safety. However, there is some doubt in defining the parameters of suspicious behavior.

“There is a difference between exhibiting antisocial behavior versus dangerously exhibiting this behavior,” said Mitchell Harpenau, co-founder of Democrats Club.

Another issue brought up by Upton was an idea from President Donald Trump, who proposed that teachers who undergo background checks and training may be given bonus salaries for keeping guns in their classrooms.

Many students, including Student Council President Colin Palmer and Secretary Ashriya Patel, expressed opposition to this idea, arguing that this is not a teacher’s job and that students might fear having a gun in their classrooms.

“Teachers are selfless people, and I don’t want them to feel responsible for protecting their class with a gun,” Palmer said.

“I think it would be odd to have more guns than defibrillators in our school,” Patel said.

I think it would be odd to have more guns than defibrillators in our school”

— Ashriya Patel, Senior, Student Council Secretary

Activities Director Nikki Smith expressed that there are methods other than guns that can protect schools from shootings and intruders. Smith specifically referenced the newly implemented ALICE system, designed to better prepare schools for attacks.

“More [ALICE] training is better than teachers carrying firearms, in my opinion,” Smith said.

Another idea Upton raised was increasing the age requirement to purchase guns to 21 (except for military purposes). Upton said that he has seen agreement on this idea in the government, and personally agrees with this change himself. Students at the meeting unanimously agreed with this rule. Molly Podiak, founder of Republicans Club, voiced her agreement for this idea, and added that an age increase may prevent high school shootings because the age to purchase a gun is beyond the average high schooler’s age.

Ultimately, Upton assured everyone that he is willing to work with children and adults alike to combat this current issue regarding gun safety and violence.

“I’m not a rubber stamp for anybody,” Upton said. “I’m not afraid to fight President Trump if I think he’s wrong.”

Upton also encouraged students, reminding them that their voice matters greatly in this issue.

“You need to be involved in the community [because] you are the future,” Upton said. “We need to encourage your participation and thoughtfulness.”

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U.S. Rep. Upton visits Friday afternoon for an in-depth discussion concerning school safety and gun violence