By: Sam Newman, Review Staff
Rep. Coffman, one of seven Colorado members of the Congressional House of Representatives and the representative for most RHS students, held a town hall meeting for civics students at Rangeview.
To kick off the meeting, Ms. Walsh asked a few ‘get-to-know-you’ questions to the audience, in order to give Rep. Coffman an idea of who he was talking to. Students were asked to stand if they had parents in the military, if they intended to serve in the military, if their parents were immigrants, if theywere immigrants, if they were enrolled in college courses, and if they were involved in extracurricular or athletic activities.
Following this brief introduction, the microphone was handed off to Rep. Coffman, who prefaced his talk by stating that he was very impressed with the responses to the questions asked; Rep. Coffman then proceeded to praise how diverse Rangeview was, with members of all ethnicities and races represented.
The town hall began in full with designated question-askers coming to the front of the auditorium to ask Rep. Coffman the questions assigned to them. There were a very wide variety of questions for him, covering topics ranging from America’s deteriorating infrastructure to gun control to immigration to why Rep. Coffman became a politician.
One of the most anticipated issues that Rep. Coffman discussed, for obvious reasons, were his thoughts on gun control legislation, and especially how schools are affected by gun policy. Rep. Coffman acknowledged the existence of problems revolving around firearms in schools, however, he initially focused more on issues with the people behind the trigger.
According to Rep. Coffman, the vast majority of school shootings are committed by “young individuals on the edge of school society,” who are influenced a great deal by a “popular subculture that is very violent.” Rep. Coffman proceeded to discuss the inherent violence in video games, television, and movies, and claimed that shooters are “seduced by the violence.”
He proceeded to discuss how it is completely reasonable to address the mentally insane, to confiscate their firearms on reasonable suspicion of instability, and to treat them in an appropriate manner. However, Rep. Coffman declared that those accused of insanity should be given an opportunity to defend themselves in court, in an expedited way, so it can be determined whether or not they should be allowed to possess firearms.
Rep. Coffman’s answer to gun control issues did not satisfy some Rangeview students, such as junior Nealani Elliston. Rep. Coffman asked to hear the thoughts of some members of the audience, and Elliston was one of the quickest to raise her hand.
Elliston stated that, statistically, people with mental health issues are more likely to commit violent crimes than those who are healthy. She proceeded to address the waiting period laws that are included in purchasing a gun, which essentially make it so that someone cannot receive a firearm that they purchase for 72 hours, allowing for them to rethink any rash decisions and for the seller to perform necessary background checks.
Elliston summed it all up with one sentence: “Seventy-two hours is not enough.”
Rep. Coffman went on to agree that great caution should be used while dealing with the insane and firearms, though some believe that he didn’t give a satisfactory answer.
Junior Alyanna Marleton recognized Rep. Coffman’s evasion, saying that she “could tell that he worked around the question by not answering it directly,” but instead focusing on other factors.
Rep. Coffman began to speak on the difference between long rifles and handguns, discussing how the law states that one need only be 18 to buy a rifle, while they must be 21 to buy a handgun. Rep. Coffman polled the crowd by asking for raised hands to see how many believe that the age to buy a long rifle should be raised to 21.
Nearly the entire auditorium raised their hands.
The discussion went on to the difference between bolt action and semi-automatic rifles, and the safeties and dangers of each. Rep. Coffman suggested that, because bolt action rifles only fire one shot at a time, they are used almost solely for hunting. He asked who believed that it should remain legal to purchase a bolt action rifle under the age of 21, and around a quarter of the audience tentatively raised their hands.
Though a lot of time was spent discussing gun control, it was not the only point of conversation. Rep. Coffman also spoke a great deal on immigration policy, especially focusing on the southern border wall proposed by President Trump.
“In terms of securing the border,” said Rep. Coffman, “there’s a number of cost-effective solutions. We could use electronic sensors, increase funding to border patrol, and even expand some of the border walls that are already in existence.”
However, Rep. Coffman does not believe that a wall spanning the entire southern border, coast-to-coast, would be cost effective, based on the terrain.
DACA was brought up in the conversation next, especially revolving around President Trump’s desire to remove DACA. Rep. Coffman claimed that DACA is part of the fabric of our community, and that simply getting rid of it will do no good for the country. Rep. Coffman explained a bill that he introduced in January, which would halt the deportation of any immigrants enrolled in DACA for three years.
“DACA is not the solution,” Rep. Coffman said to Rangeview students. “It is a temporary fix to a problem.”
Rep. Coffman was also asked whether or not he agrees with Betsy DeVos on her statements about protection for those accused of and victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
DeVos wants a reparation to the current laws regarding sexual assault for colleges, where the accused, and sometimes even the victims, will be left to fend for themselves in their legal cases, and where the accused can be expelled or punished by the campus without even knowing what it is that they did. You can read DeVos’s full speech here.
Rep. Coffman began by speaking on his involvement with the military academies, how he played a role in a Congressional committee over them, and how he knew all about sexual misconduct being a huge issue in them. He spoke of one cadet being sentenced to 21 years for sexual assault, and of many others being expelled.
However, according to Rep. Coffman, while the military academies may have problems, the private universities have problems of their own. He discussed how private universities are able to expel students without due process, and how that expulsion can follow someone for the rest of their life. Often, they don’t even get legal counsel to defend themselves.
Rep. Coffman wrapped up his discussion on the policies of sexual assault on campuses by saying that things would need to be amended so that the accused could at least get legal due process before their persecution.
One of Rep. Coffman’s final topics was North Korea, and what he believed should be done about the supposed threat from the reclusive Asian nation. Specifically, he was asked what he believed the implications of a nuclear war with North Korea would be.
Rep. Coffman began by speaking about his recent time spent in Korea, meeting with various leaders from both sides, trying for peace or a resolution of some kind. Despite these peace meetings, though, Rep. Coffman still believes that all options are on the table.
Rep. Coffman made a point to Rangeview students that a nuclear war wasn’t the only thing to fear when discussing North Korea; a conventional war, or a conflict between troops without the use of superweapons, could be just as bad for America as a whole. Should the United States become engaged in a conventional war with North Korea, total American forces would have to be directed to Korea, making it so that the American military couldn’t focus anywhere else.
Rep. Coffman also pointed out how, soon, North Korean ICBMs will be able to reach American soil, which puts the United States in a difficult position. Though he believes that the air defense systems in place around the U.S. will be sufficient to stop a small nuclear attack, anything major could become devastating.
His hope, Rep. Coffman said, was that things would be solved peacefully. He suggested economic pressure and sanctions on North Korea — and China, if necessary — in order to neutralize the potential nuclear threat. After all, according to Rep. Coffman, “Without China, North Korea would collapse overnight.”
All in all, despite the very sensitive topics discussed in the town hall meeting, many believe that the meeting went very well, or at least was beneficial in some way. Rangeview students were able to hear the ideas and policies of a politician, someone who wouldn’t normally have a role in life at Rangeview. But Raiders weren’t the only ones who got something out of it.
“Students learned,” said Ms. Walsh, “and Representative Rep. Coffman learned from us. It exceeded my expectations, but that’s normal for Rangeview students.”
Rangeview students were very well behaved throughout the meeting, remaining attentive and respectful. Even when Rep. Coffman’s opinions differed with some of their own, they allowed him to speak, listening to what it was that he had to say, and respectfully disagreeing or agreeing when given the opportunity. Many students were quite satisfied with the take-away.
“I appreciate his willingness to voice his opinion and to hear the voices of a very diverse group of students,” said junior Alyanna Marleton.
Rep. Coffman, too, was greatly satisfied with the results of the town hall meeting.
“It went very well,” the Representative said. “The questions were great. I enjoyed hearing the students opinions the most, which I was able to do by asking them questions in turn.”
Especially following Rep. Coffman’s town hall meeting held at Cherry Creek High School just two days earlier — when he was booed at, where protesters rallied outside of the school, and where the only topic of discussion was gun control — the respect that the Raiders displayed was refreshing for both Rep. Coffman and his staff.
One undercover police officer was quoted in the following:
“It is a sad day when teenagers are better behaved and have better questions than the general public.”
Anyone can visit Mike Coffman’s website here and leave him a question or a comment anytime. Rep. Coffman and his staff will review the questions and comments, and will return detailed responses as soon as they can, making this a great way to get in contact with the Representative.