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Madison Public Officials Call For Special Session On Gun Reform

Students, Educators Ask For Action On Gun Violence

Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham
In this file photo, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham called on legislators to take action on gun reform. Marylee Williams/WPR

Madison public officials, students and educators crowded behind a podium at the Doyle Administration Building in Madison, and asked state and federal representatives to call a special session to take up legislation on guns.

These requests came in the form of a press conference Monday and a petition that has been delivered to Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi was in attendance Monday and said about 5,000 people have signed an online petition that calls for:

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  • mandatory universal background checks.
  • a ban on assault weapons.
  • a ban on bump stocks.
  • preventing domestic violence offenders from owning firearms.

Parisi criticized Ryan and Walker on their inaction to take up gun reform.

“They have the power to make a difference in the gun violence epidemic; so far, they’ve done nothing,” Parisi said. “Today we are calling on them to lead, to lead our community, state and nation who want action.”

The petition comes less than two weeks after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead.

“We’re calling on them to be true leaders,” Parisi continued. “Because true leaders serve their community, not the gun lobby.”

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham also called on legislators to put the safety of students first.

“Our students have the right to learn and thrive in an environment that nurtures their talents, their sense of belonging, and their joy without having to worry about the threat of a school shooting,” Cheatham said.

Students from area high schools listened as representatives called for their safety.

Ellis Kondrashov, a freshman at Madison East High School, said he’s afraid of someone coming into his school with a gun, and that it’s important for legislators to listen to students.

“We’re the ones who are the most affected,” he said. “We’re the ones who would be killed if a shooter came into the school, not any of the lawmakers. And I kind of doubt that many of them grew up in a time where this was such a central fear in schools and such a big issue.”

Madison’s Board of Education will be reading a resolution on gun safety Monday night. Board President James Howard said the resolution will call for, “sensible legislation around gun control.”

Howard went on to say that gun control is a community issue, not just a school issue. Speaking alongside public officials, he addressed a question of emergency resources officers and the state Assembly passing funding for more armed guards in schools.

“How many EROs in schools would make you happy and comfortable?” he said. “How many do we have to put in? One? Five? Ten? Remember schools aren’t prisons, they’re a place for kids to come and learn, enjoy themselves and to learn to be adults.”

Howard added that the community needed to handle the bigger problem.

“The core issue is the accessibility to guns and the lack of legislation to govern their use,” he said.

Students in Madison and across the country are planning a school walkout March 14 to protest gun violence.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.