• May 316/5-8 – Lunch WILL NOT be served to students. Carl's will be open for business.

  • May 316/1 Last dress down day of the year- for the benefit of St. Gabriel’s, our twin school in Haiti

  • May 316/8 - LAST DAY OF SCHOOL - HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!

Senator Van Hollen Speaks to The Talon

Brent Smith, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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On Thursday, The Talon interviewed Senator Chris Van Hollen about congressional gun reform efforts following the Parkland school shooting. Special Projects Editor Alexia Ayuk (19’) asked the Senator six questions on topics ranging from universal background checks, semi-automatic weapon bans, and youth activism. Alexia describes why she wanted to reach out the Senator: “After hearing about the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, I was left in complete shock. Although there have been seven intentional school shootings since the beginning of 2018, this one registered differently with me: it dawned on me that what happened to those students could have happened to me. The fact that Thursday’s drill at GC was deemed necessary is not only disheartening but terrifying. Many of us adolescents have opinions about public policy and congressional decision-making but feel discouraged because we cannot vote or run for office. So, I did what I could, and decided to reach out to Maryland’s elected Senators and Representatives via email. As it turns out, our elected representatives do care what we have to say, and Senator Van Hollen’s office agreed to let me ask him some questions on behalf of The Talon.  Today, talking to our Senator about how we can solve the issue of gun violence in America, and about the importance of youth activism, made it evident that our voices can and will be heard.”

Read the interview transcript below:

Alexia: In November 2017, you were one of 22 senators who introduced a semi-automatic weapons ban. In the wake of the Florida shooting, how do you plan on engaging the rest of Congress in addressing this issue?

Sen. Van Hollen: Well, I strongly support a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. These are military-style weapons that are designed to kill lots of people quickly, and they have no place on our streets. We’re going to be working very hard to try to get a majority of senators to support this common-sense measure. We are talking to our colleagues—and are working hard to get their support— but we need students from all over the country, and others, to call their senators, encourage them to adopt this legislation.

Alexia: Absolutely. I understand that you and Senator Ben Cardin joined in introducing a background check expansion act in late 2017, so why do you believe universal background checks should be the next step forward in gun reform?

Sen. Van Hollen: Well, it’s important that everyone who purchases a firearm first undergoes a criminal background check, to determine whether they pose a danger to the community. It makes no sense to have loopholes— like the gun show loophole— because that just means that if you want to buy a gun [and have] and criminal record, you can show up at the gun show instead of the gun shop.

Alexia: So, Maryland, comparatively, has very strong gun control laws. But that has not stopped the NRA from trying to influence Maryland politicians by contributing money. How do you feel about politicians accepting money from the NRA?

Sen. Van Hollen: Well, I have an ‘F’ rating from the NRA, [meaning that Sen. Van Hollen has consistently voted contrary to the NRA’s position on gun legislation] and I’m proud to have an ‘F’ rating from the NRA because I support common-sense measures which they oppose. Members of Congress need to make those decisions for themselves, but I strongly oppose it. I strongly support hunters, I support the ability of law-abiding citizens to have firearms, but we don’t need to have AR-15s on our streets.

Alexia: What steps will you take to ensure that possible gun control legislation is not unfair to responsible gun owners?

Sen. Van Hollen: Well, we’re going to make sure that this does not encroach on the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners, and the courts have said that background checks are consistent with peoples’ Second Amendment rights. […] Maryland, as you may know, has a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles, and the Supreme Court let it stand.  

Alexia: I know that when you were a representative, you introduced legislation to encourage states to toughen handgun licensing requirements. To what extent should there be required official training for those purchasing a gun for the first time?

 

Sen. Van Hollen: I think Maryland is a good model for the country. We require a form of a license to purchase a firearm, just as you need a license to drive a car. And that license comes with some requirements, like your ability to show that you know how to use a firearm responsibly.

Alexia: Lastly, what can students, like myself, do to help solve the issue of gun violence in America and its effect on our peers today?

Sen. Van Hollen: Well, I think students like you are the hope for actually getting some action on common sense gun legislation: we need to have every student from across the country calling their members of Congress, demanding that we take action. This is the moment to do it, there should be no further delay. We need to have a vote in the House and the Senate so that the public knows where people stand on this issue.

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The Talon is incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to Senator Van Hollen. We would like to especially thank the members of Senator Van Hollen’s staff for their efforts to fit The Talon into the senator’s busy schedule. He and his office will always have a friend in Good Counsel.

If you are interested in contacting your Representative or Senator, please consult the district map and contact information page below. Map courtesy of Pinterest, phone numbers courtesy of IndivisibleMD.Org

 

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Photo of Sen. Van Hollen courtesy of the Baltimore Sun.

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