U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat representing Kansas’s 3rd District, and other state lawmakers said that they support the Second Amendment but called gun violence a public health crisis at a public event on Saturday.
Davids hosted a gun safety roundtable discussion at Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, where she and advocates attempted to steer clear of controversy to focus on evidence-based ways of addressing gun suicide, improving school safety and supporting people with mental illness.
“We really need to be making sure that we’re getting accurate statistics that we’re really getting into the meat of why gun violence is occurring and where it’s occurring and what types,” Davids said.
The event drew a crowd of more than 200, filling the room and leaving many standing in the back. The crowd mostly cheered proposals like red flag laws and expanded background checks, though some audience members thought Davids should do more to restrict access to guns.
“They need to do something about keeping the kids safe! That’s what I want,” said Cathy Porter-Washington of Wyandotte County, Kansas. “Because there’s too much crime going on now. It’s too easy for people to get guns.”
The panel included state lawmakers Rep. Kathy Moore of Kansas City, Sen. Pat Petty of Kansas City and Rep. Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village, as well as members of the groups Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action.
During the hour-long session, the panel took two audience questions, and as the session moved into final remarks, it was interrupted by a few gun rights advocates who said their concerns about personal safety and rights had been ignored in the discussion.
Prior to the session, gun rights advocate Carl Smith, who came with his adult son, Justin, said that he believed in preserving access to guns for self-defense, rather than relying on police for protection.
“They can’t do anything until a crime happens,” Smith said. “So it’s not their job to protect you. It’s your job to protect you.”
The lawmakers stayed after the session ended to listen to advocates from across the political spectrum and encouraged them to contact their local, state and national representatives.
Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.