By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

It maybe wasn’t the sort of place you’d expect heated debate. But during “Triggered: The Power of Guns, Law & Politics” the third annual C. Clyde Ferguson Jr. Symposium at Howard University School of Law, audience and panelists alike argued firmly their beliefs and asked hard questions during the event.

This conversation, formerly known as the Ferguson Lecture, was established in part ot honor the legacy of Clarence Clyde Ferguson Jr., former Dean of Howard University School of Law and alum (LL.B cum Laude, 1951).

Panelists at “Triggered: The Power of Guns, Law & Politics,” part of the third annual C. Clyde Ferguson Jr. Symposium at Howard University School of Law.  (Photo by George Kevin Jordan)

It was presented by the Howard University School of Law, Human & Civil Rights Law Review. The topics were important. “This year, our Lecture addresses the critical issue of gun violence in America. From police brutality, suicide and mass shootings, gun violence impact the daily lives of people throughout the country. Gun laws and legislation play a pivotal role in both the perception and the impact of guns in our society,” wrote Elijah B. Porter II Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review.

The event was jam packed with two panels, one dealing with high school shootings, and the other on health and public safety issues that gun violence causes. The keynote address was delivered by Congresswoman Robin Kelly, representing the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois. Noted hip-hop artist Rah Digga also moderated a panel.

Definitions of the types of gun violence vary, but the impact is devastating no matter how you look at the issue.

The Washington Post created a data that tracked about 1,148 deaths due to mass shootings from 1966 until January 2019. That’s 161 shootings in which four or more people are killed. Of those killed 189 were children and teenagers, the report stated.

When you take in the larger issue of gun related deaths, the numbers skyrocket.  According to the there were 14,645 deaths related to gun violence in 2018 alone.

Aalayah Eastmond, a teen student activist and panelist at the event, participated because she wanted to keep the conversations around gun violence going in all spaces. During the panel she held her own on many topics including mass shootings, racism, bullying and even about the idea of giving teachers guns.

At one point Eastmond said, “I barely trust people with my grades, I’m not going to trust them with guns.”  She went on to urge policy makers to provide teachers with more resources and supplies rather than weapons.

Eastmond is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, the same school where a gunman killed 17 students and staff. She has continued her mission of speaking out against gun violence at several rallies, and sees the work that needs to be done with talking about these issues.

“It’s important we have these conversation in our schools and communities anywhere possible because it’s not happening enough,” Eastmond said. “People are still talking about Parkland and Columbine but no one is talking about Chicago and Detroit.”

Eastmond has toured extensively and knows firsthand how conversations about gun violence differ depending on location and demographics.

“When you go into predominantly White areas to talk about gun violence they don’t really understand how prevalent it is in our communities,” Eastmond said. “They only see what they see on the news and that’s mass shooting.”

“And when they do show shootings in urban communities its ‘he’s a monster.’ I always have to break it down to them, that in our communities it’s systematic.”

Harold McDougall, a panelist during the event and author and professor, was excited by the enthusiasm of panelists and the audience alike.

“I don’t think anybody was prepared for how powerful this conversation was,” MacDougall said. “But this is Howard’s brand. They are invested in social justice.”

Amos Jackson, a senior at Howard University, studying Political Science and African-American Studies, was on the panel. He urged people to not just think of the individual when thinking about gun violence and how to address these issues.

“If people have never experienced it’s one thing to say ‘oh it’s not that big of a deal,” Jackson said. “We have to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. How would you want this to be debated and legislated if we remove ourselves from the situation and look at the greater society as a whole.”