NEJC groups appeal to governor to convene conference on gun violence

A Glock similar to the gun used in the Hesston, Kan., shootings.
A Glock similar to the gun used in the Hesston, Kan., shootings.

In the wake of the attack that killed three people and left 14 injured in Hesston, Kan., this February, Gov. Sam Brownback told anti-gun violence advocates that the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy wasn’t the right time to have a substantive conversation about gun control.

On Friday, a statewide coalition led in part by a NEJC group asked the governor whether the time was right yet.

Grandparents Against Gun Violence and the Northeast Kansas Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which is headed by Prairie Village resident Loren Stanton, held a news conference at the end of last week appealing Brownback to convene a conference on how gun violence impacts communities. Here’s the text of the appeal:

Governor Brownback:

In the immediate aftermath of the tragic attack at Excel Industries in Hesston, you declined questions about gun policy issues because you understandably felt the timing was not appropriate. We, the undersigned, inferred that you do believe, however, a time and place for such a conversation exists. We think that time should be soon. Our state has suffered three high-profile mass shootings in the past two years, and Kansans clearly are keenly concerned about all forms of gun violence. The signees of this appeal respectfully ask that you convene a conference dedicated to publicly hearing and discussing a wide range of ideas and options for reducing gun violence. Such a conference should include participants of your choosing who represent all sides of the issue as well as individuals knowledgeable about, and experienced in, dealing with gun violence-related issues and problems. We believe the conference could and should be full of ideas, free of rancor and dedicated to finding common ground wherever it might exist. Thank you for your consideration on this request concerning a critical issue of public health and safety.

The appeal statement was signed by 21 organizations from across the state, including the Social Witness and Advocacy Task Force from Village Presbyterian Church; the Johnson County Mental Health Center; and Johnson County MoveOn.

“We often hear calls for a public conversation on the gun issue in the wake of mass shootings, but no organized talks ever seem to happen. Kansas has had three high-profile mass shootings in the past two years, and we believe it is more urgent than ever that a serious in-depth discussion take place on gun violence,” Stanton said. “We recommended to the governor that invitees to the conference we’ve proposed would represent all sides of the issue and include representatives from organizations that deal often with gun violence and its consequences.”