Talking Together About Guns

The “Talking Together About Guns” series of events has been created by Penn State faculty, staff, students, and Centre Region community members who are concerned about guns and violence in our culture. The series began in September 2016 on the weekend of Constitution Day, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of the fatal shooting on the HUB lawn. The new documentary “TOWER,” about memory and trauma 50 years after the first mass shooting on a college campus, screened in the HUB’s FLEX Theatre in November. WPSU screened “Peace Officer” in February. More events are listed below.

We recognize that Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms and that we have unrivaled levels of gun-related violence for a developed nation. Americans have liberal (as in non-restrictive) laws regarding firearms and a public health crisis because of the high amount of guns. Rather than shout at one another about our points of view, TTAG group is working to get people together to understand one another’s perspectives, recognize differences, and find common ground for the common good.

For my own part, I’ve had my own experiences with the threat of gun violence. Last spring I began serving my four-year term as a supervisor in Ferguson Township. Our township meetings are transparent for the public. In the interest of sound decision-making, we speak our minds and listen to presentations from both specialized experts and workaday citizens.  Last year, a citizen came to a series of meetings to allege that his second amendment rights had been violated when a gun that he possessed was seized by the police. I learned later that he was a convicted felon who had lost his right to carry a firearm. Am I going to have to grab my fellow supervisors and run? A woman I know well was in attendance with her five-year-old son. As he spoke I thought, Am I going to have to tackle him so they can escape? Will I die doing that? I don’t mean to be dramatic. Three Ross Township supervisors were shot in 2013.

And I knew Jillian Robbins, the HUB lawn shooter. She and I went to high school together. She was in Algebra II with me in 11th grade and other classes at the AP, now State College’s Delta Program. My friend’s father was murdered by the KKK at the Greensboro Massacre in 1979. Forgive me if I struggle with violent fundamentalists having access to cheap firearms and large amounts of ammunition.

What about you? What are your stories?

Will you meet up with others to listen, share, and find common ground? Will you talk with others about guns?assen_deliberation-overleg3_bert_kiewiet

778 Bullets — film screening and panel with filmmaker Angela Aguayo
Flex Auditorium, HUB-Robeson Center
Tuesday, March 21, 7 p.m.

In November 1970, university, state and local police shot 778 bullets into an off-campus rental house in Carbondale, Illinois. The residence was rented to a handful of university students; some were assumed to be associated with the local Black Panther Party. Unlike other police raids of known Black Panther residences across the country, the Carbondale Panthers shot back. Using archival material, newspaper accounts, witness testimony and experts in the field, “778 Bullets” presents a little-known history of resistance and resilience in the human struggle for self-determination. The dominant memory of the Black Panther Party would have us believe that the Panthers existed only in major urban cities; this short film documents a more rural presence of radical politics and the struggle for civil rights. Filmmaker and Communication Studies scholar Angela Aguayo, Associate Professor of Cinema and Digital Culture in the Department of Cinema and Photography at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, will discuss the film and take audience questions after the screening.

Joe Quint: It Takes Us — photographs of survivors of gun violence

Hump Day Gallery, next to Zoller Gallery, Visual Arts Building
Exhibit opening Wednesday, March 22, 5:30 p.m.
Photographs on display through April 21

On his ittakes.us website and through exhibits and appearances with survivors of gun violence, photographer Joe Quint asks viewers to take an honest look at the impact of gun violence on survivors, the family members of victims, and witnesses. Quint says, “We can’t afford to wait for someone else to step up and address this crisis. We all need to get involved in whatever way suits our skills, talents, and passions best. For me, this means meeting and photographing survivors of gun violence as well as the friends and family members of gun violence victims … and telling their diverse stories of trauma, grief, and strength. By shining a light on these people, and allowing viewers to relate to them on a personal level and maybe even see their own family’s story in the stories of others, I hope to create a dialogue that will lead to meaningful change.”

3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets — film screening
Freeman Auditorium, HUB-Robeson Center
Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m.

On November 23, 2012, Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, and three friends drove into a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla. Davis and his friends got into a verbal altercation with white 45-year-old Michael Dunn, who took issue with the volume of the teenagers’ rap music. When Davis refused to turn down the music, Dunn opened fire on the car of unarmed teenagers. He fired 10 bullets, three of which hit Davis, who died at the scene. Dunn fled, but was taken into custody the next day. He claimed that he shot in self-defense. Filmed over a period of 18 months, “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” intercuts scenes with Davis’ family and friends with footage from Michael Dunn’s trial and police interrogation, news reports, and prison phone recordings between Dunn and his fiancée. Drawing on 200 hours of footage, the documentary reconstructs the night of the murder, delving into the intricate web of racial prejudice in 21st-century America and how such prejudices can result in tragedy.

Joe Quint presentation and discussion with survivors of gun violence
Freeman Auditorium, HUB-Robeson Center
Tuesday, April 4, 7 p.m.

Photographer Joe Quint presents multimedia stories of survivors of gun violence, their families, and witnesses with the goal of sparking conversations that will lead to action. This event will include a panel discussion with Quint and gun violence survivors – with questions, comments, and stories from the audience warmly welcomed.

The Armor of Light — film and panel discussion
WPSU-TV Studios, Innovation Park
Screening and panel discussion, Tuesday, April 11, 6-8:30 p.m. (register for event at wpsu.org)

Broadcast on WPSU-TV Thursday, April 13, 8-10:30 p.m.
This film documents the journey of an evangelical minister trying to find the moral strength to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. “The Armor of Light” tracks Rev. Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and lobbyist on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. Along the way, Rev. Schenck meets Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida and whose story has cast a spotlight on “Stand Your Ground” laws. Also an evangelical Christian, McBath’s personal testimony compels Rev. Schenck to reach out to pastors around the country to discuss the moral and ethical response to gun violence. The film is a courageous look at a fractured political culture and an assertion that it is, indeed, possible for people to come together across deep party lines to find common ground.

Public Issues Forum: Reducing Violence in the United States
Fairmount Avenue Elementary School, 411 S. Fraser Street
Wednesday, April 19, 6:30 p.m.

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TTAG is sponsored by the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences; the College of Communications; WPSU; the University Libraries; the Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose; the Hump Day Gallery; the Paul Robeson Cultural Center; the Social Thought Program; the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; the McCourtney Civic Deliberation Professorship; the Rock Ethics Institute; Penn State Police and Public Safety; Webster’s Bookstore and Café.

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