Two hot-button issues will be front and center at a Missouri lawmaker’s town hall meeting Thursday night.
Republican Representative Shamed Dogan of Ballwin is holding a gathering at a high school in Fenton east of St. Louis to discuss gun rights and crime prevention at the same time. Advocates for gun control and gun rights will exchange ideas.
Dogan says he wants to find common ground between the two divergent groups to move forward in an effort to curb violence and crime in Missouri.
“To the best of my ability, I want to see if there are solutions where we can meet in the middle,” said Dogan. “Often times you are going to have to agree to disagree. But there are going to some issues where I think people who think they’re on divergent sides can agree.”
A recent survey by financial news company 27/4WallSt. ranked St. Louis and Springfield as the 3rd and 8th worst cities in the country to live in, largely based on crime and poverty.
CBS News published a list of U.S. cities that had the highest rate of violent crime in 2016, the most recent year available from the FBI. St. Louis was number 2 followed by Kansas City at number 6 and Springfield which came in at number 19.
Dogan thinks those cities, which are the three most populated centers of the state, present the biggest problem areas in Missouri.
He invited Kevin Dixon, owner of No Other Choice Firearms Training in the St. Louis suburb of Olivette and Jessica Risenhoover, co-leader of the St. Louis chapter of Moms Demand Action to speak at his town hall.
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.
Another Moms Demand Action organizer, Kim Westerman, told Missourinet in February that the 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.”
The No Other Choice Firearms Training website notes it’s involved in the “promotion and preservation of the Second Amendment” and is focused on making sure “freedoms to be armed remains intact”.
It’s “About Us” page includes the sentence in bold lettering: “We are more than guns; we are a community”.
Dogan says the goal of the Thursday night town hall is to have a civil discussion among advocates on both sides of the gun issue.
“I worry that in the last few years we’ve seen just an increase in incivility and name calling and people not willing to listen to people who disagree with them,” said Dogan. “None of those things are healthy for the type of American society that I want to live in, or the type of society that I want to leave my kids with.”
Dogan told Missourinet that events such as the mass shooting at a Florida high school this spring motivated him to host a town hall on gun rights and crime prevention. He said he believes in 2nd Amendment gun rights, but with limits.
“I don’t think that that’s an unlimited right, that you have a right to own, for example, nuclear weapons,” Dogan said. “I think that’s something that pretty much everyone can agree on, or that civilians don’t have the right to own military equipment and weapons.”
He also said he wants to examine regulations that would keep firearms out of the hands of people who are shown to be a potential threat, such as people who have committed certain acts of domestic violence.
Dogan mentioned that Thursday night’s event dealing with guns and crime is a departure from his typical town hall gatherings that cover issues his constituents are concerned about such as water bills or the price of prescription drugs for seniors.