Thursday, March 7, 2013

Another conversation about guns

There will be a forum on gun issues tonight in Media.

Last night, we decided to advance the meeting by once again talking about guns and gun issues on our “Live From the Newsroom” live-stream Internet show. We were joined by Chester Mayor John Linder, who will be on tonight’s panel, and who also is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, as well as Chester Police Chief Joe Bail. On the other side of the coin was my columnist Gil Spencer and lifetime NRA member Dan McMonigle.

If you missed the show, you can catch the replay here.

Here’s what I learned last night. This can be done. You can have a civil conversation about guns and how to ease the gun problem in this country. I’d like to congratulate the members of the panel for - more than anything else - proving that there is common ground on this issue.

I hope that tone continues tonight during the forum, dubbed ‘Guns in America After Sandy Hook,’ from 7-9 p.m. at the Media Borough community Center, 301 N. Jackson St., Media.

The first thing pointed out by Mayor Linder is that his concern is about ‘illegal’ guns and those who brandish them. Bail pointed out that in all the gun arrests he’s made, none of them involve someone who had a gun legally.

Also noted was that while much of the nation’s focus in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy has been on rifles and assault weapons, that’s not really the issue in cities like Chester. The problem there is handguns. Loads of them, obtained illegally, often through straw purchases, and in the hands of people who should not have them, often in conjunction with the city’s drug trade.

Bail noted that his new policing efforts are paying off, both with fewer gun crimes and with getting illegal guns off the streets.

His biggest contention now is to toughen background checks, in particular when it comes to those struggling with mental illness. Bail makes it pretty clear that too many people are still getting their hands on guns who should not have them, who should be ineligible because of mental health problems.

He got no argument on that from McMonigle.

So there you have it: Common ground. It’s a start. One thing I’ve learned in all this is that you’re not going to get anywhere if you can’t sit down and have a conversation on this crucial issue. That’s what my goal was last night. I think we achieved it. My hope is that’s what happens again tonight.

And down the road as well. It’s too important not to.

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