Editor's note: this article has been changed since its original publication to reflect a correction.
Though Lynn Classical High School’s auditorium was only half-full for Saturday’s panel discussion on gun control, there was plenty of emotion and passion throughout the nearly two-hour gathering.
The discussion, co-hosted by Congressman John Tierney and Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, included panelists Peabody police Chief Robert Champagne; Liam Lowney, director of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance; Robert Joss from Salem’s Psychological Consulting Services; Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday; Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins; Lynnette Alameddine of Saugus, whose son Ross was killed during the Virginia Tech shooting; Lynn School Resource Officer Robert Ferrari; Wenham resident Ann Krantz, representing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence; and Lynn police Chief Kevin Coppinger. About 150 people attended the event.
“The district attorney and I welcome a fulsome discussion about what form of action might be consistent with the Second Amendment and give us all a sense of better protection and safety,” Tierney said before the discussion began.
“This is democracy in action,” Blodgett said. He asked that people remain respectful and civil during the discussion, saying, “That’s what this country is about.”
As speakers on the panel responded to questions posed by Blodgett and Tierney, the audience often erupted in applause, with some even shouting at some points.
A remark by Rosenthal calling the availability of guns in other states like New Hampshire and their use in mass shootings “out of control” inspired outraged boos. After a panelist’s comment that Massachusetts has always had either the first- or second-lowest number of gun fatalities in the nation, an audience member shouted, “That’s a lie!”
Tierney had to call for respectful dialogue to continue several times during the event.