Heated debate on gun violence in Kalamazoo

Jon Hoadley
State Rep. Jon Hoadley speaks at a public meeting in Kalamazoo to discuss gun violence. (April 4, 2016)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — About six weeks after six people were killed and two more wounded in a shooting rampage, Kalamazoo-area residents gathered Monday to debate the issues surrounding gun violence.

The conversation at the Kalamazoo Public Library became heated at times as the people on opposite sides of the issue clashed. Some argued there are too many guns getting into the wrong hands in the United States, while gun advocates said statistics are skewed and ignoring the benefits of firearms.

State Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, who facilitated the discussion, showed a graph that indicated there were 88.8 guns per 100 people in the U.S. and also talked about the number of mass shootings across the nation and the accessibility of guns.

“I strongly believe that we need to acknowledge the link between accessibility and an injury and death,” he said.

Hoadley argued the U.S. should model its gun policy after other countries with universal background checks to crack down on gun violence.

Tom Lambert, the president of Michigan Open Carry, Inc., disagreed.

“You don’t get in the way of people protecting themselves,” he told people assembled for the meeting.

He packed his argument with frustration toward the numbers, saying the statistics were cherry-picked and misleading. He also said the argument for gun control did not take into account law-abiding citizens who own guns.

“You incentivize people protecting themselves. The State of Michigan has a $115 CPL (concealed pistol license) application fee. We’re one of the highest in the nation,” Lambert said.

When the floor opened to residents, some blamed gun violence on a cultural trend.

“We need to look at our culture in this country. In the Wild West, what did it look like? We saw all these people carrying guns up and down the street? No we didn’t,” one community member said.

Another community member expressed concerns about people purchasing guns for others who shouldn’t have them.

“She picks out exactly what he wants and he still gets the gun. There’s no way for me to stop a straw purchase. Eventually they’re going to be able to do it because they get educated,” the citizen said.

There seemed to be an agreement between both sides of the debate on wanting to keep families safe, but it was clear the conversation will be ongoing.

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