Parkland father speaks on gun violence at Farmington library

By: Mike Koury | Farmington Press | Published April 24, 2019

 National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, Co-President Sandi Matz, right, congratulates first-prize winner and Troy Athens High School junior Madison Strachan, 16, for the PSA she created for the youth media contest “What Does Gun Violence Prevention Mean to Me?”

National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, Co-President Sandi Matz, right, congratulates first-prize winner and Troy Athens High School junior Madison Strachan, 16, for the PSA she created for the youth media contest “What Does Gun Violence Prevention Mean to Me?”

Photo by Sean Work

 Jeff Kasky, the father of two Parkland shooting survivors, left, and Linda Brundage, of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, right, speak at the Farmington Community Library April 15 for the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s gun violence prevention event.

Jeff Kasky, the father of two Parkland shooting survivors, left, and Linda Brundage, of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, right, speak at the Farmington Community Library April 15 for the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s gun violence prevention event.

Photo by Sean Work

 Jeff Kasky, the founder of the Families vs. Assault Rifles PAC, right, speaks with state Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, at the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s gun violence prevention event April 15.

Jeff Kasky, the founder of the Families vs. Assault Rifles PAC, right, speaks with state Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, at the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s gun violence prevention event April 15.

Photo by Sean Work

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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Community Library was the site of a gun violence prevention event April 15, when it also played host to the father of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students.

The featured speaker at the gun violence prevention event, which was organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, was Jeff Kasky, the father of two boys, Cameron, 17, and Holden, 15, who survived the mass shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida.

Kasky, who has set up the organization Families vs. Assault Rifles PAC, said he’s spoken “uncountable times” since the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting, and while it was something he never really wanted to take on for obvious reasons, he feels like he has to do this for the current generation of youth.

“I feel like my generation owes reparations to my kids for allowing our political system and our system of government here in this country to get to the point where the politicians can be bought so easily that tragedies like this can happen,” he said. “I feel like I’m paying back a debt from my generation to the newer generation.”

Kasky detailed how he tries to go about his speeches, discussing the National Rifle Association and trying to debunk “some of the myths and talking points of the gun over-enthusiasts,” such as how organizations like his want to come and take people’s guns away.

“We have gun owners in our group,” he said. “We have Republicans, Democrats, members of other parties, everything you can think of. The vast majority of the country agrees with our position, that civilians’ assault weapons don’t belong in civilans’ hands.”

What Kasky wants to achieve through his activism is to make it harder for civilians to obtain assault weapons, and rolling them into the National Firearms Act of 1934.

“Assault weapons are the deadliest category of civilian-available weapons, and they have no business in civilian hands,” he said. “We aim to keep them out of the hands of the most dangerous people.”

When asked what he hopes people take away from his speeches, Kasky said he hopes people realize it’s not enough for people to just watch the news, hope things change and then move on with their lives — real action has to be taken.

“This requires teamwork or it requires everyone’s participation,” he said. “We need the population of the United States to step up and say, ‘We’re not willing to accept this,’ and not just to themselves in their living room. They need to either get out there and march, get out there and volunteer with an organization, make a donation, write a check, whatever it might be, but they’ve got to participate.”

The shooter in the Parkland killings used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members and injure 17 others during a six-minute shooting spree.

The event also honored three high school students who each created a PSA for the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s “What Does Gun Violence Prevention Mean to Me?” contest.

The first-place winner was Madison Strachan, of Troy Athens High School; Sydney Stearns, of Bloomfield Hills High School, took second place; and third place went to Sarah Chynoweth, of North Farmington High School.

“With the young people from Parkland rising up, we thought that would be appropriate to have our … media contest be in line with gun violence prevention,” National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, Co-President Sandi Matz said.

The winning PSA submissions from the three young women, according to Matz, featured a video by Strachan dramatizing the moments before a school shooting, Stearns’ audio presentation with statistics on gun violence, and Chynoweth’s video of high school students being interviewed on what gun violence means to them.

Matz said they were hoping that what they’d get from the PSAs would be both shocking and educational.

“That’s what we’re hoping for, and that’s what I think the students of Parkland are hoping for, that people will become educated on gun violence and gun violence prevention,” she said. “They just want things to change, instead of continuing the same.”

Kasky said he was happy to see some “meaningful participation” from the young students who submitted to the contest.

“The March for Our Lives has shown us that the young people — the high school students and even younger — have a say in this representative democracy,” he said. “This isn’t about them sitting and waiting for the adults to get things done. We failed. They need to step up. So this is another way to show them that they are part of the solution by coming up with these … media presentations. That’s a way of showing them they have a voice in this, and I’m so glad that some high school students have chosen to participate.”

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