Hundreds packed St. Paul's Cathedral in Downtown Buffalo on April 7 to hear a panel's thoughts on gun reform. The town hall-style "gun forum" was organized by students, and was one of hundreds taking place across the country.
"We're not going to have a shouting match or anything along those lines," said Andy Kowalczyk, a senior at Clarence High School. "We want to be able to responsibly talk to our leaders and be heard as well."
Kowalczyk was one of three student moderators at the forum, and also helped organize the event. Sitting on the panel was U.S. Representative Brian Higgins and democratic congressional candidate Nate McMurray.
U.S. Representative Chris Collins declined his invitation, originally calling the meeting "a partisan trap." After the forum, 7 Eyewitness News sat down with Collins, who watched the town hall via live stream, in a one-on-one interview.
"This was a charade. This was nothing more than promoting the hand-picked Democrat-endorsed candidate to run against me," Collins said. "This was anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment, anti-Collins gathering of like-minded individuals."
During the forum, McMurray, who is running against Collins in New York's 27th district, called for an increase in background checks and an increase in funding for mental health studies. Representative Brian Higgins agreed: "we need mental health experts and education experts... to help Congress form an answer."
In offering his own take on what needs to change, Collins said Congress has already cleared the CDC to study gun violence, fixed the national "instant background check" that ensures federal agencies properly report certain activity, and discussed properly training resource officers to defend schools.
"We need to talk about the impact of violent video games, social media, copycat, bullying, other mental health issues," Collins said in offering what more needs to be done. "We're talking about red flag laws that would allow in a state for someone, if they really suspect, like this individual in Parkland, they can take their guns away for a period of time... in the name of safety."
Representative Brian Higgins called for extensive background checks to combat gun violence and rescinding a person's ability to buy guns if they're on the no-fly list. He said he would fight for both of these measures in Congress.