Editorial: Parkland students should be welcome in Naperville

Why Naperville?

That's a question, or variation of the question, that some people were asking on our story this week about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students from Parkland, Fla., who will be holding a town hall in a Naperville church later this month.

We'd ask: Why not Naperville?

It's the fourth largest city in Illinois. And its suburban location mirrors many of the most tragic school shooting sites in the country: Columbine - suburban Denver; Sandy Hook - suburban New York; Parkland - suburban Miami; Santa Fe - suburban Houston. And DeKalb and Dixon are just west on I-88.

Naperville municipal, school, civic and religious leaders should be promoting this discussion as a step forward in making schools safer. The fact that it sold out in two days shows the interest.

That doesn't mean they also shouldn't discuss security measures or mental health issues, As we've said several times, the answers can't be just on one side of the equation or the other.

But the question of guns can't be ignored. That's what these teens have chosen to focus on and that's their right to do so. They lived through horror - 17 of their classmates killed and 17 more injured - and should be cheered for their activism and interest in participating in our democracy, whether you agree with their goals or not. Lies and distortions on their motives should not be part of the discussion, however, and it's disheartening to see debunked theories still making their way into the comments about their Naperville visit.

Some ask why the students aren't focusing on more urban areas - which, of course, they are. The day before Naperville, the group will be on the South Side of Chicago for a peace march with teenagers from St. Sabina Academy. Some question if they chose Naperville because it's in the heart of a solidly Republican Congressional district that Democrats have targeted. And that may be true as well. We'd urge GOP Rep. Peter Roskam to hear what they have to say because they could also represent many of his constituents' views.

We are impressed not only with how these Florida teens are fanning out across the country with their "Road to Change" bus tour to promote their cause but also by their Naperville host - the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church.

"What we don't want to see happen, more than anything else, is that people become numb to the violence," the Rev. Tom Capo of the Unitarian Universalist church told WBBM-AM.

"Shooting after shooting after shooting, whether it be in Chicago or schools across the country, if we become numb to the violence, then it will continue and get worse." he said.


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