Mass shootings like the ones in Maine last week are a “unique American problem” and change may only come from voting out lawmakers who have worked against gun reform, Congresswoman Katherine Clark told high school students Monday.

Clark, the number-two Democrat in the House, said the nation has made some progress at reforming gun laws, including through last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, but said stronger regulation was all but impossible with the current slate of Republican lawmakers.

“I think it really is that simple. We have to elect people who will move us forward,” Clark told the crowd of at least 250, packed into Arlington High School’s auditorium. “We have to change the players who are voting on these measures.”

Clark, a 60-year-old Revere resident, was joined by Representative Maxwell Frost of Florida, the first Gen-Zer to hold a seat in the House and a lifelong advocate for gun reform.

The audience fell silent as Frost, 26, recalled seeing reports of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than 10 years ago. Frost was in high school at the time, and he recalled scanning the exits at a jazz band recital that evening, terrified that a shooter might enter.

“I know that’s an anxiety that a lot of you live with everyday,” Frost told the students before he and Clark fielded about a dozen of their questions, mostly focused on gun control.

One student asked the representatives how they respond to arguments that gun ownership is a fundamental part of American life.

Frost said he has no problem with gun ownership, and he understands Americans who want to own firearms for self-defense purposes. He said there is a false notion that Democrats advocating gun control are really pushing to abolish the Second Amendment or ban guns outright.

“We’re just trying to make sure that . . . we have common-sense gun reform,” he said.

Clark echoed the younger representative’s argument, emphasizing that most Americans support some degree of gun reform.

Both representatives acknowledged that the country has a history of mourning mass shootings without making significant changes to its gun laws, but they expressed optimism that stronger regulation could come in the wake of the Lewiston, Maine, killings and after the 2024 election.

Last week, Maine Representative Jared Golden reversed his longtime stance on assault weapons, calling on Congress to ban them and taking responsibility for previous failures to do so.

In a Globe interview after the town hall, Clark said Golden’s “brave” reversal gives her hope that lawmakers are starting to budge on gun control.

“I have spoken with him, and I think he feels it’s the right thing to do,” Clark said. “That is a very difficult thing to do in politics, to do a 180 on an issue that is so decisive, but I think he is exactly the kind of leader we need on this issue.”

Clark and Frost both said most Republican voters are supportive of “common sense” gun reform, including background checks, waiting periods, and “red flag” laws, but many legislators, bound by pressure from the gun lobby, fail to catch up with their constituents’ attitudes.

One student asked how either representative plans to effectively work on gun control with the new Republican speaker of the House, staunchly conservative Representative Mike Johnson.

“I don’t at all,” Frost said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I don’t see us passing any gun legislation, meaningful gun legislation in this Congress.”

In his first interview as speaker, shortly after the Lewiston shooting, Johnson said it was not the time to discuss legislation and said the “problem is the human heart, not guns.”

Clark called the speaker’s words “so discouraging,” but she emphasized that a younger generation of voters, activists, and legislators — including Frost — seems well equipped to change the makeup of Congress in the next few years.

“The American people are way ahead of members of Congress in understanding the urgency,” Clark said in the interview. “If we really want freedom in this country, we cannot live under the fear that we’re going to be sending our kids off to school and may never see them again.”


Original story HERE.