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Students to host first U.S. Senate debate on gun control in Portland

High school students in Portland are hosting the first debate in the race for U.S. Senate, which will focus on gun control.

(PORTLAND) -- High school students are hosting the first debate in the race for U.S. Senate, which will focus on gun control.

Leeza Kopaeva is a member of Students Speaking for our Lives, a group formed after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year.

"We really wanted to do something to change this issue and make sure that our legislators continue to talk about it," Kopaeva said.

The students say gun violence is of the utmost importance to their generation.That's why they're hosting a debate to hear from the candidates vying for one of Maine's U.S. Senate seats.

"I think the Second Amendment is a vital ingredient to our free society," said Republican candidate Eric Brakey.

Brakey will take on Democrat Zak Ringelstein.

"People, if they want to kill somebody, have a tool to do so, and we want to make sure that the people who are gonna commit these atrocities can't get those guns in their hands," Ringelstein said.

The incumbent, Independent Senator Angus King, will be missing from the stage.

"Sadly, Angus King is running afraid," said Brakey. "He does not want to stand up in front of Maine people and defend his record."

Jack Faherty, the campaign communications director, said, "Senator King is disappointed he couldn't make his schedule work for the engaged and passionate young people leading SSOL and is looking forward to meeting with them as soon as their schedule permits."

"It's incredibly disappointing," said Kopaeva. "We'd like to have everyone there and have an equal and honest debate. I mean, that's what government's about. It's about checks and balances and having an equal voice from every person involved."

Kopaeva said the King campaign suggested hosting the debate in the fall, but some of the students will be off to college by then.

"I hope that more students realize they can be involved in this and that their voices do matter," she said.

Faherty said Senator King plans to participate in debates this fall.

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