The Lebowitz Meeting Room at the Morse Institute Library was filled to capacity last night as the Town of Natick hosted a Public Safety Forum on Violence Prevention.
Selectman Joshua Ostroff organized much of the event and also served as the moderator.
"This came about because of questions and concerns," Ostroff said near the beginning of the evening. "We won't get all the answers tonight."
This was one of the themes of the evening, as it was often noted that there would likely be follow-up discussions about this subject at different times and places in the coming months.
"This is an issue that matters to everyone," Selectman Paul Joseph said.
Natick Police Chief James Hicks, State Representative David Linsky (D-Natick), School Committee Chairperson David Margil, State Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and psychiatrist Chris Gordon all spoke about different topics related to safety, much of it related to providing information to the public and much of it related to school safety and the safety of children.
Many people wondered about how people obtain a gun license and what is needed to be able to purchase a gun, as well as what steps gun dealers need to take to be able to sell firearms.
Some of the discussion also centered around children, and subjects such as how bullying can affect a child and what can be done to make a child feel more included.
Dr. Gordon noted how mental illness has been portrayed in the media, and he told the audience that that portrayal is not accurate and how most mentall ill people are not violent, but unfortunately they end up getting viewed that way.
"I worry very much that people may learn the wrong lesson about mental illness," Gordon said.
After each of the panelists spoke on their area for the evening, the members of the audience were given the opportunity to speak.
More than one resident commented about school lockdowns, stating that they don't understand the purpose and how they can be effective. One resident said people could jump out the window. While no one challeneged that opinion openly, getting older students through windows that no longer open as wide as building that were built years ago could be difficult.
Chief Hicks explained that the purpose of a lockdown is to keep the students and staff safe behind a closed door and hiding. This is opposed to running in the open hallways, although there are other schools of thought, he said, and they are looking into them to see what else they can do that would be effective.
There were suggestions such as having armed guards, possibly police officers, at the schools. Residents also questioned why the police can't go into someone's home ot inspect how they are storing their firearms.
This meeting was ended with some things up on the drawing board for further discussion, and more ideas will likely come as the town moves forward after the new year.