Fishbowl Engages Campus Community in Discussion on Gun Violence

February 26th, 2013 by 

Students packed the Rehm Library for a fishbowl discussion titled "After Sandy Hook: How do we prevent similar forms of violence?" Image by John Morton ’15

Sensible gun control, increased resources for mental health screening, and promotion of personal responsibility were among the suggestions of a group of Holy Cross students, faculty and staff to reduce the incidence of gun violence in America.

Following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December, the College of the Holy Cross joined colleges and universities around the country in a pledge to address the tough issue of gun violence. On Feb. 19, a campus fishbowl, organized by the College’s McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, drew a capacity crowd to listen and contribute to the discussion, “After Sandy Hook: How do we prevent similar forms of violence?”

In a fishbowl format, chairs are arranged in concentric circles. Moderated discussion begins among the inner circle of “fish” and later is opened to the audience seated in the outer circles for questions and comments.

Featured in the discussion were: Marian Blawie ’16, a resident of Newtown, Conn.; Miles Cahill, professor of economics and associate health professions adviser; Lawrence E. Cahoone, professor of philosophy; Robert T. Jones, associate director of multicultural education and a trainer and facilitator of Kingian Nonviolence; Alison Smith Mangiero, political science instructor; Chris Tota ’13, a former National Rifle Association member; and Amy Wolfson, professor of psychology and associate dean for faculty development. Thomas M. Landy, director of the McFarland Center, moderated.

Discussion centered on gun control — what is allowable within the Second Amendment, the difficulty of defining assault weapons, balancing Americans’ rights and responsibilities when it comes to public safety, and what works in other developed nations. Myths about mental illness and the predilection toward violence were debunked, while the lack of training and resources for addressing mental health concerns were stressed. Participants also touched upon sociological and cultural indicators of violence, and the importance of educating young people about the alternatives to resolving conflict with violence.

The Student Government Association sponsored a dinner Sunday, Feb. 24 to continue the discussion.

Organized by Antonio Willis-Berry ’13, the SGA’s director of diversity, the event challenged students to answer “What can we do in our everyday lives to prevent violence of all forms? How can you be a better resource for those around you suffering from violence?” Fifty-six students participated and tackled topics such as bullying; racism, reverse-racism, and derogatory slurs; and gun control.

Watch video from the fishbowl.

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