Summit brings community together for discussion on gun violence in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- People from across the country participated in the Kansas City Gun Violence Summit on Friday, where the conversation covered a wide range of topics, including how gun laws have changed in Missouri and the fallout from gun violence in Kansas City.

One of the most powerful sessions of the day was about how gun violence affects students and schools.

"Nineteen years ago today I was a 16-year-old junior. I was a dorky kid that was over-involved in everything," speaker Samantha Haviland said.

Haviland was also a kid running for her life from gunfire. She is a Columbine school shooting survivor and recounted the terror Friday as if it happened yesterday.

“I ran out into this hallway, and I don’t know what is going on. I had my shoes in my hand, and I don’t know what is going on. My friends are all against the lockers, and they are yelling for me to get against the lockers. Why?" Haviland said. “These fire doors saved my life, and they were literally within arms length of me because down this way was one or both of the boys who were shooting at my friends."

Her friend Rachel Scott was the first victim of the Columbine massacre.

Haviland has dedicated her life to trying to help students as the director of counseling for Denver Public Schools. She said any problem that happens in society happens in schools, including in Kansas City.

Danielle Foster, a student at Lincoln Preparatory Academy, has to go through metal detectors to get into her school, so she feels somewhat safe there. But it's after she leaves school that frightens her most.

"Especially for inner city kids, people don't realize our lives don't stop after school," Foster said. “You still have to go to the neighborhood where there is drive-bys on a weekly basis. There is gunshots every night."

The trauma from fear can be devastating, Haviland said, and affects students of all backgrounds and experiences.

Foster, along with other students who participated in a round-table discussion at the summit, said everyone can have an impact on gun violence by simply talking to those who are affected by it.

Whether they have direct experience with gun violence or are afraid of it, that small change would make a big difference.