BIDDEFORD — On Monday, Oct. 8, the University of New England will host a moderated conversation titled “What About Guns?” as the next installment in The President’s Forum, an event series of moderated panel discussions, debates and other highly interactive presentations about controversial issues.

The event is sponsored by UNE and the Make Shift Coffee House, a nonprofit organization that facilitates dialogue and understanding among people across political spectrums. It will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Harold Alfond Forum on UNE’s Biddeford Campus.

The forum, which will be moderated by Craig Freshley, founder of the Make Shift Coffee House, will feature special guests Republican State Sen. Eric Brakey, Senate chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and Democratic State Rep. Charlotte Warren, House chair of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, who will discuss the role of guns in contemporary American society. Audience participation will be encouraged.

UNE President Dr. James Herbert, who launched The President’s Forum in March, said that he is looking forward to vigorous and lively discussion but noted that the event will be conducted respectfully and in a fair and balanced manner.

“The President’s Forum does not aim to promote any specific ideology or stance,” Herbert said. “It’s about providing an opportunity for people with diverse perspectives to come together, share their views on the pressing issues of the day, and maybe come to a better understanding of opposing viewpoints as well as their own beliefs.

The event will pose various questions to both the speakers and the audience in an effort to explore their views on the country’s gun policies, the life experiences that have led them to hold their beliefs, and their opinions on what they would most like to change about society’s attitude toward guns.

“The subject of guns and gun control is one of the most divisive topics of our time,” Herbert said. “It’s important for people on both sides of the issue to discover other perspectives and to examine the things within ourselves that shape and inform our own opinions.”

Herbert said that the forum, like the event series in general, is an embodiment of the special responsibility held by universities to provide an arena for the community where differing ideas and opinions can be addressed without instilling fear of rebuke or ostracism.

“In a world where the political divide is growing and where civil discourse is eroding – where debates on social media are increasingly mean-spirited and polarized, this is a face-to-face forum where people with different political views can talk and listen to each other in the spirit of mutual respect,” he said.

The event is free and open to the public and community members of all perspectives are encouraged to attend. Refreshments and live music will be provided at 5:45 p.m. and at the close of the forum. Please make note that UNE campuses are firearms-free zones.

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