Milwaukee and Appleton students meet to talk gun violence

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Milwaukee and Appleton are two different cities with different feelings about guns. Saturday, high schoolers from both communities sat down together to talk about gun violence. They found they see eye to eye on the issue more than they expected.

Six students from Milwaukee area high schools and six Appleton high schoolers share experiences with guns and violence at Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Several students admitted they didn’t know how the conversation would go.

“Everyone wants less gun violence, like that’s something I think is kind of a fundamental thing. We all value human life, all want people to feel safe,” said Kate Bennett, 17, of Appleton North High School.

The group found common ground almost as soon as the two-hour long panel discussion began. Students shared their gun experiences.

“We started walking and then all of a sudden we started hearing gun shots – I just remember someone being killed right in front of us,” said Laresha Love, 17, of Bradley Tech High School in Milwaukee.

Bennett spoke of her first experience with guns while working one day in the valley.

“[The customer] had their gun on their side and that was like the first time I think someone just like casually carrying a gun around public space,” she said.

Dr. Katherine Wilson of the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion moderated the panel discussion, setting rules early on so students would know to respect each others’ views. It was clear early on that wouldn’t be a problem.

“They’re teens and they actually demonstrate a lot of courage and they are great examples for the rest of us,” said Dr. Wilson.

“I want to hear what other people have to say, especially the people who don’t have the same opinion as me,” said Love. “I feel like that if I hear someone else’s opinion I feel like that I’ll understand them a little bit more.”

“There’s numerous outcomes from every action, and there’s numerous solutions to every problem,” said Appleton North’s Saul Rosellar,17.

The group spoke of different ways to address gun violence, in Milwaukee and in Appleton.

“If we all left here still having our own idea of ‘I’m for this – I’m against this,’ I feel like still there should be some type of respect,” said Rocky Nelson, 17, of Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

Nelson felt everyone showed respect during the discussion.

The students in the group are diverse culturally, but ended up being very like-minded when it comes to gun issues.

Dr. Wilson said she’d like to see students of different beliefs, from urban and more rural areas of Wisconsin, have the same respectful discussion.