Utah lawmakers plan town hall meetings at high schools across state after student walkout demonstrations

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Utah students who participated in a national school walkout this week have inspired some Utah lawmakers to act.

You could call it a listening tour. Some Utah lawmakers plan to hold town halls at schools across the state. They want to hear directly from students on issues such as gun violence, and teen suicide.

Brighton High was one of a dozen Utah schools who led a peaceful walkout Wednesday, March 14. They wanted to honor the 17 lives lost in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and inspire lawmakers to enact stricter gun control.

Isaac Reese is a Brighton High student who helped organize the walkout.

“There`s a lot of parts that goes into this conversation. Of course, there`s a mental health component but then there`s also safety within schools.”

The students' message caught the attention of some Utah Lawmakers including Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

“We wanna listen to them. We wanna learn from them." Weiler said.  "Our country is changing. The number of school shootings is extrapolating like out of control."

While he’s impressed with students mobilizing for a cause, he’s deeply concerned they feel dismissed.

“I`m not sure what the solution might be. We all want our children to be safe when they go to school and we want them to feel safe.”

Reese is happy lawmakers are taking them seriously.

“If these students are willing to put so much on the line like their grades, their attendance and anything else really we should be able to at least have the conversation to come up with some solutions.”

Organizers are still working out details with specific schools and should have some firm dates on the first town halls by next week.

The events will be sponsored by Buckshot Caucus.

Elected officials committed to take part in the town hall meetings so far include:

Sen. Curt Bramble, Rep. Brad Daw, Rep. Steve Eliason, Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, Rep. Keith Grover, Rep. Timothy Hawkes, Sen. Don Ipson, Rep. John Knotwell, Rep. Mike McKell, Rep. Jeff Moss, Rep. Lee Perry, Rep. Susan Pulsipher, Rep. Mike Shultz, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, Sen. Todd Weiler and Rep. Mike Winder.

In a press release, organizers say Representative Susan Pulsipher also announced her plan to introduce legislation to fund the largest study of rampage violence ever conducted by a state.  The proposal, still being crafted, would work with the state’s universities to find causes of and solutions to rampage violence.

“We’re studying suicide and we’re using the data to craft policies to respond to the crisis,” said Rep. Pulsipher.  “We need to do the same thing with rampage violence.  We need to know how to eradicate it.  Step one is giving our best and brightest minds the resources they need to do the job.”