Cache Valley residents discuss gun violence solutions

A panel of local leaders, officers and citizens met at the Logan Library on Wednesday evening for community conversation about taking action against gun violence on both a national and local level.

Members of the panel were asked to participate in this conversation by Cache Valley United for Change, a citizens group which was created last March. By hosting events and sparking conversation with the community once a month, the group’s mission is to work for a more inclusive, tolerant, free and just society.

“I love that people were able to talk so openly,” said Katie Miner, a Utah State University student. “It is a tricky topic but people were open-minded.”

With varied backgrounds and experience with guns, the panel discussed background check legislation, gun safety education and the misconception that mental illness can be blamed for shootings. Action against gun violence looks different to everyone, and the panel discussed the varying avenues.

“Legislation is a part of the solution but I don’t think we can just legislate our way out of this problem,” said Mark Maughan, a local law enforcement officer on the panel. “I really think it is an education issue. Education is key.”

According to Terryl Warner, the Cache County director of Victim Services and moderator of the panel, there have been three capital murders in Logan and four or five homicides since September 2018, and out of all of these incidents, only one of them involved a gun.

For the state as a whole, however, someone is killed with a gun every 24 hours, according to a statistic from Giffords Law Center presented by Karina Andelin Brown, a member of the panel. Brown is the Cache Chamber of Commerce legislative affairs committee co-chair and one of the founders of the group that hosted this event.

“I think that statistic could be improved if we had even just one more safeguard,” Brown said, referring to universal background checks.

Brown also said she supports H.B. 209, a bill sponsored by Rep. Stephen Hardy R-Layton, which would allow the temporary removal of firearms for alleged risk to self or others.

Matthew Wappett, the executive director of USU Center for Persons with Disabilities, said he worried about people with mental illness being flagged and discriminated against because they are often portrayed in the media as a ticking time bomb.

As a member of the panel, Wappett urged the audience to recognize that people with mental illnesses are not predisposed to violence and vice versa.

“Being an asshole doesn’t mean you are mentally ill,” Wappett said.

Being raised around guns, Mary Ann Thompson, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in American, has nothing against responsible gun owners and said she recognizes that keeping guns from criminals is a multifaceted problem.

In regard to domestic violence, unintentional gun deaths and suicides, Thompson said legislation could close gaps and reduce risk.

“If we don’t listen and talk to each other, we won’t find the answer,” Thompson said. “We need to work together.”

No firm conclusions were made about the best way to decrease gun violence, but Brown said she was grateful for conversation that was had and hopes to continue this dialogue at the next event. Although change takes time, she said continuing this conversation can be the action this community needs right now.

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