October 30, 2020
By Neal S. Shera
The story has been repeated over and over and the shootings at El Paso and Dayton won’t change the subject matter. After every one of these tragedies there will always be a call for more regulations on gun control. These voices are always heard in the media, but the volume of the message fluctuates depending on the level of influence they have in political spheres. The 2018 gains by the Democrats in the U.S. House and governorships have brought this issue front and center again. The state of Kansas was not excluded from this set of circumstances. Recently, an invitation was sent out for a public discussion and I collected some fellow advocates to go in support the 2nd Amendment.
It was labeled as a ‘Gun Safety Roundtable’ discussion with limited seating. The event was being hosted by our freshman Representative Sharice Davids who brought other state level politicians and community activists. The panel totaled her along with six other people. Two were from Bloomberg backed gun control groups. Captain Mark Schmidt of the Shawnee Mission School District Police. His portion of the panel was the most professional and productive as he simply explained what he was doing to make schools safer. There were no political undertones in his delivery or commentary. The others were all local state level politicians. They all represented the more suburban regions of the Kansas City area. There were others in the audience as well, including a state representative that was elected on the Republican ticket for her district but switched parties on a few weeks after her election. Also missing from this discussion were politicians from the more crime prone areas of the city. This tips their hand that they are losing that argument hose areas and are directly targeting suburban swing voters.
Now the definition of a roundtable is a discussion and exchange of different views by a group of peers. This was a panel discussion, which is a group that addresses an issue of concern in front of an audience regarding a specific topic. Again, except for the police captain, all the panel members were for gun control. There was no part of the event where individuals could directly address the panel about the topic. The attendees were asked to fill out a question card where organizers would select specific questions they wanted the panel to answer. In the end, only two questions were poised to the panel and they were as bland and as generic as they could be to favor their position. When it was realized that the audience engagement would be minimal I asked the organizers why. One staffer responded that if I had a position counter to the one expressed by the panel I should organize my own event to express that. That was completely contrary to the purpose of my attendance. The core of civics at any level is for all sides of an issue to meet, discuss and educate. Most of the gun control faction are woefully uninformed to the facts of the issue. It was clear that this was merely an exercise of political activism, based on the presentation of emotion, and that they wanted only two groups present. Those in favor of restricting firearms ownership and those who were undecided and ready to be swayed.
While the event was scheduled for two hours the panel only lasted for one before breaking up to talk to individuals. While the panel was presenting its viewpoint for that short time very little was actually said. Representative Davids opened with her statement. It was clearly one used before as she stated that El Paso and Dayton happened last week, it was actually three weeks ago by this time. The gun violence in the state for the last few years was solely blamed by the loosening of state gun laws and nothing else. Republican politicians were to blame for why any issues surrounding this subject matter were not getting resolved. This was cased made for both at the federal and state level. The Students Demand Action representative relayed a narrative based with a limited view. She stated that she is from a generation that has lived in the shadow of Columbine. I pointed out to her afterwards that I was from the generation of the San Ysidro McDonalds massacre while others present were from the University of Texas shooting. This problem has been around a long time because evil happens. Buzz phrases like “we respect the 2nd Amendment” were used often and others stated that because of their limited military service or because they hunted were used to make them qualified to give a professional opinion on the subject. The most ridiculous portion came from Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Navy veteran, who made himself out as a “practical gun owner” and claimed nobody needed hi-capacity magazines for any practical purpose and semiautomatic rifles were unnecessary for private citizens. His claims went so far as to say that people who felt the need to have extended magazines had some sort of mental issue. I’m not making this up and if you want to see all of this for yourself. Sharice Davids has a video record of the discussion posted on her FaceBook page.
The only time the meeting was contentious was as it was wrapping up and some 2A supporters were upset because they didn’t have a chance to address the panel. As one gentleman voiced his concern several members of the audience called for him to sit down. One female shouting for him to be quiet and was getting visibly upset by this man’s opinion. In reality about one-third of the audience present was anti-gun control. Once the panel adjourned, many pro-gun advocates came to the from to discuss our position. I headed to Rep. Stogsdill to get further clarification on his statements wear he then claimed that I had misinterpreted his statement. All the more reason we need to attend these events and attempt bring expose some truth.
After him and a few other local politicians, I had a chance to have a short discussion with US Rep Davids. She was polite and professional while listening to my concerns. I was surprised and relieved that she didn’t mention any gun advocacy groups in a negative manner. Whether the matter we discussed goes anywhere has yet to be seen. She seemed more grounded than the others who I previously engaged. Regardless of how she interacted with the public the truth was revealed by her staff. I had the chance to ask several very specific questions from Brandon Naylor, her Legislative Director. In summary, it was more important to look like they were doing something than actually solving the problem. Their goal on universal background checks was to get a bill passed. The actual structure and mechanism of enforcement would be left the bureaucracy of the Justice Department! The idea that a law enforcement agency can write the law as they see fit is a scary amount of power to an unelected official. Yet this seems more and more of how today's federal government works.
The coming months will be a rough time for pro-gun supporters. Odessa, Texas has been stuck by a senseless tragedy, but the opposition will waste no time to use it to stoke the fires of emotionally driven people. The already thousands of existing laws are not stopping these from happening. We must do our level best to stop the mindless focus on the tool and move to the person wielding it. The opposition at the very best thinks the rights granted by the 2nd Amendment can be treated like a dimmer switch for a light. The rest simply want it unplugged. We must speak up and get them out of their limited comfort zone. Don’t let others speak for you. We must all get active before it’s too late.