Public forum on gun control sparks debate in Kalamazoo

Posted at 11:52 PM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-04 23:52:28-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich -- An open forum lead to strong arguments in Kalamazoo on Monday. The topic: gun control; a sensitive issue in the area coming just weeks after the mass shooting that killed six people an injured two others.

The big question asked at the forum: is gun violence directly connected to gun access? The discussion drew a clear line in the sand between the two sides, made clear by a question and answer session.

The forum was run by State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) and Tom Lambert, president of Michigan Open Carry.

“I would love to see us expand our background checks, I would love to see us work on smart gun technology and ultimately let's look for ways that empower local communities to make decisions about the guns in their communities," said Hoadley.

“Before we can talk about solutions we have to correctly identify the problem and Representative Hoadley and I reasonably disagree on what some of the problems really are," said Lambert.

“I think this world has got completely crazy, and I want to protect myself, protect my children, protect my family, and come home safe at the end of the day," said Denise Flinders, an open carry advocate.

Flinders was just one of many people who came to the meeting and vocalized the importance of their Second Amendment rights. “I am an NRA instructor. I work for Firearms Legal Protection, which is a legal service company that protects citizens that have to use their firearms in self-defense reasons. I am also a mother of six children with special needs and carry my gun everywhere I legally can," said Flinders.

The heated debate showed just how passionate the audience was on the issue of guns.

“People care passionate about keeping their family safe, their home safe and their community safe, and I think Kalamazoo knows that all too well" said Hoadley. "Having recently experienced a mass shooting event, I understand that people feel very passionately about this issue. I think that we need more open dialogue like we saw tonight. It’s a start of a conversation."

Hoadley is currently working on legislation to introduce a new emergency alert system for situations like the shooting a few weeks ago. He is partnering with State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp).