Rhode Island College, the American Democracy Project and RIC Civic Engagement organized a panel for Monday, Nov. 14, focused on gun violence prevention.
The panel, called “Gun Violence Prevention: Listen to Our Plans for Change,” was moderated by Amanda Milkovits, a reporter for the Boston Globe.
The panelists included:
Diana Garlington, who is a gun violence survivor, membership lead volunteer with Moms Demand Action and secretary of RI Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Timothy McGann, who is a Detective Sergeant in the Providence Police Department.
Sydney Monstream-Quas, who is the chair of RI Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Lisa Pina-Warren, who is the director of intervention services at the Nonviolence Institute.
And Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, who is the State Representative for Rhode Island House District 5 and a public school teacher.
The panelists agreed that the issue of gun violence is complicated and will require an all hands on deck approach.
"Gun violence doesn't happen in a vacuum," Ranglin-Vassell said. "It happened because of something. And it happens because of trauma."
Garlington explained one measure that needs to be taken is continuing to call on the General Assembly to pass additional gun safety laws.
"We have to continue and keep our boots on the ground," Garlington said. "We have to continue to push for stricter laws as we're doing right now.
Monstream-Quas added onto the point of taking on the issue legislatively that 68 candidates who were endorsed by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence won their races.
"So, in all of those 68 candidates, 60 of those are in the General Assembly," Monstream-Quas said. "We need the legislators up there fighting for this issue and not cowering away from it."
A number of solutions were suggested by the panelists, too. Ranglin-Vassell highlighted the need to increase the accessibility to mental health services for Rhode Islanders, saying, "get mental health services that's accessible."
McGann provided a crucial perspective during this panel, being a member of law enforcement. Improving relations between police and the communities is one of the solutions he provided.
He said, "We don't have the credibility that the community wants to help us, so we can't be as effective as we really want to be."
Another topic McGann brought up during the conversation around an assault weapons ban is how handgun violence is also a big issue on the streets, citing the guns' size making it easier for criminals to conceal them.
Toward the end of the panel, all the panelists agreed both collaboration and continuing the fight are big parts in getting towards the aforementioned solutions.
During the night, there was also a fundraiser for Miya’s Voice, which is a scholarship fund in memory of Miya Brophy-Baermann, a victim of gun violence and the daughter of Dr. Michelle Brophy-Baermann, an associate professor of political science at RIC.
After the panel, Dr. Brophy-Baermann delivered a powerful speech.
"How many of us have to lose our children before something changes," Dr. Brophy-Baermann said. "How many children have to die? After Miya died, I did not want to talk about guns. I understood how impossible it was to have a rational discussion about them. I couldn't handle more conflict or negativity. Instead, I chose to focus on Miya."
She explained the story of how the Miya D. Brophy-Baermann Scholarship Fund came to be, which started originally as a GoFundMe campaign, created by a colleague with the hopes of creating a one-time scholarship.
So many people had donated, which raised enough money for two memorial scholarships in Miya Brophy-Baermann's name at the Rhode Island Foundation.
The two winners were a student from RIC, and a student from URI who are pursuing a communicative disorders degree in college. Moving forward, in perpetuity, one scholarship will go to a RIC student, and the other will go to a URI student.
Miya's Voice, a non-profit, was also created.
"Miya's voice is all about encouraging young people to consider careers in communicative disorders and related fields," Dr. Brophy-Baermann added. "This non-profit, we want it to help young people find and use their voices to support their values and benefit their communities, to create awareness about the impact of violence in our communities and to promote the values that Miya believed in: Diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, the power of education and love of community and just plain love."