It’s been hard to avoid the topic of guns in the news cycle lately. The aftermath of the mass shooting at a Florida high school is still top of mind.
In southwest Missouri’s Neosho, a youth baseball team made national headlines this week by sticking with its plan to have third-graders sell raffle tickets for an AR-15, a similar weapon to the one used in Florida.
And a Republican congressional candidate in neighboring Kansas is standing by his campaign giveaway of an AR-15 after receiving criticism following the mass shooting.
Given the scenario, it wouldn’t hard to foresee the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America mobilizing for a Tuesday rally in Jefferson City. Except that the organization had been planning the event for months. The date just happened to mark the 3rd annual Missouri Moms Demand Action’s Advocacy Day at the state capitol.
Organizer Kim Westerman of the Missouri Mom’s St. Louis chapter says about 100 more people signed on for this year’s gathering since the Florida tragedy. She thinks there’s something special motivating personal participation.
“It’s really inspiring just how many people are standing up right now,” Westerman said. “I’m not sure what’s different about this mass shooting, but it just seems to be a tipping point for people. I’ve seen it on my social media feed. People are saying, ‘I’ve supported you for a while, but I want to attend a meeting. I want to take action.”
The congregation of 300 people assembled for a group photo before breaking into smaller divisions to visit every state legislator’s office. This year they’re targeting a bill in the state House from Republican Representative Jared Taylor of Nixa which would vastly expand the number of locations, particularly private businesses, where concealed carry of guns would become legal.
Westerman says it would force businesses that don’t want concealed guns on their premise to take extra measures. “This law would make it so everyone has to opt out,” said Westerman. “So, if you’re a bar that doesn’t want guns in your bar, you’d have to post a sign saying, ‘no weapons are allowed’.”
Businesses such as day care centers, churches and bars could allow concealed carry of weapons under the legislation. For his part, bill sponsor Taylor says it’s only fair that businesses make their own decisions.
“In my opinion, it should be up to the private business owner whether or not they allow guns into their facilities or businesses,” said Taylor. “It shouldn’t be up to the government to make that decision for them.”
This bill would also prohibit the state, cities, counties and public colleges and universities from imposing restrictions on concealed carry of guns. Westerman credits lobbying efforts by her group as being partly responsible for blocking a similar proposal from Taylor last year from passing.
She’s also quick to point out that her group is not focused on banning any type of gun, but instead wants to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.
“We want states to pass laws that empower families and law enforcement officials to be able to get a judge to block dangerous people from getting guns in the first place,” Westerman said. “The common link through all these mass shootings is dangerous people having guns.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense is a division of the umbrella group Everytown for Gun Safety, which was founded in 2014 by financial services billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Governor Eric Greitens offered thoughts on how to fight against gun violence like the recent mass shooting in Florida Tuesday morning. He thinks, among other things, police agencies need to do a better job of communicating.
“Share intelligence among the federal government like to FBI, our state Department of Public Safety, local sheriffs and chiefs of police,” Greitens said. “They all need to be sharing intelligence, so if there is a threat, we can address it quickly.” Greitens made his comments to Missourinet affiliate KXEO following a visit to the Veteran’s Home in mid-Missouri’s Mexico Tuesday morning.