Town hall panelists discuss mass shootings

A panel of speakers spoke to University of Tennessee students and staff about violence and mass shootings that have happened in recent American history.

The Division of Student Life Diversity Committee held a town hall panel discussion on mass shootings on Oct. 18.

Panelists were asked a series of questions both from the moderator and from the audience. Each panelist was given two minutes to respond to each question. The first question revolved around the role of media in the event of a mass shooting.

“I think it is important we don’t put killers on the front cover.” Rev. Chris Buice, Minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church of Knoxville, said.

“Media is overwhelming,” Edward Reinhold, another panel member and special agent in charge of the FBI Knoxville Division, said. “They swarm. We don’t want to glorify [shooters].”

The panelists also discussed the role of gun laws in preventing further mass shootings.

“Gun laws can be passed with respect to the Second Amendment,” Buice said.

Brian Gard, director of Emergency Management at UTK, added to the discussion by saying “We have a mental health system that is broken.”

That opened up the discussion about the mental health of shooters. Antonio Butler, an undergraduate student and Vice President of Multicultural Mentoring Program, said, “Love and support counts.”

Buice discussed the impact and healing process after a mass shooting on his church and his churchgoers. Kathy DeVault, Director of Strategic Partnerships with the City of Orlando, shared her experience in trying to bring Orlando together after the Pulse nightclub attack last June.

“Giving people an outlet to be part of the community is important,” DeVault said.

The panelists ended their discussion by considering the role of violence in American media, trying to dispel the notion that violence on TV and violence in real life are similar.

“Real violence is so different from what you see on TV. Violence is tears, it’s grief,” Buice said.

Antonio Butler followed up by saying, “We have become so desensitized to violence. Every victim is an untold story.”

The panelists finally shared their hopes that the audience had learned that love counts when it comes to the healing and recovery process of a mass shooting.

“I hope that people have learned to love one another more,” DeVault said.

“There is a love that is greater than any one of us,” Buice said.

Cara Scott, a freshman, said that the panelists were very thorough in their discussion. When asked about campus carry on the UT campus she said, “Guns are a tool. I’m more nervous about the people carrying them.”

The Diversity Dialogues Town Hall Series will be holding more panels and discussions throughout the semester including a town hall discussing campus carry on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Featured image by James Hearn

Edited by Ben Webb