By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
About a dozen people on Wednesday tried to come to grips with the question of how to stop mass shootings during the first in a series of free forums as part of the annual National Issues Forum, held at Missouri Southern State University.
Moderator Wendy McGrane, library director at MSSU, said the forums are designed to bring together students, faculty, staff and community members to talk about important and relevant topics. This year’s topic, which questioned how society can stop mass shootings, has been in the national conversation steadily since December, when a shooter gunned down his mother and then 26 children and teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., before taking his own life.
Participants — who included both gun owners and those who said they were “against guns” — discussed three options to stopping mass shootings: reducing their threat, equipping people to defend themselves and rooting out violence in society. They also talked about specific actions people could take in each scenario, such as banning assault weapons, arming teachers and administrators inside schools, or restricting depictions of violence in video games and other forms of media, as well as potential drawbacks of each action.
McGrane said the group generally agreed on the importance of parenting one’s children and taking ownership of individual actions. She also said the group favored increasing awareness of safety procedures and precautions at schools and other public places, as well as cracking down on bullying.
Participants did not reach a consensus on most other points, nor did they find a solution to the problem. But McGrane said the debate was the goal of the forum.
“It’s a conversation we’re having; there’s nothing really formal about this,” she said. “I want us to talk about this in terms of ideas, not people.”
Rachel Whitehead, an art student at MSSU, said she was interested in attending the forum after hearing about it in her government class.
“It’s just interesting because I think there’s been a lot of attention to these things (mass shootings) happening, and it’s heartbreaking to see it happening,” she said.
Whitehead said after the forum that she appreciated hearing different viewpoints from participants. She said she doesn’t think there are many feasible or realistic solutions to stopping mass shootings, but she advocated for a few simple — and possibly preventive — techniques, such as reaching out to people.
“I think we reached a general consensus that there’s no one solution,” she said. “But pay attention to people you see on a daily basis and take note if there’s something wrong. Too many times in the community, I think we ignore people.”
Forums are also scheduled for 6:30 to 8 p.m. today, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, and 12:30 to 2 p.m. Friday, March 15. All will be held on the third floor of MSSU’s Spiva Library. To reserve a spot, people may call Ann Wyman, associate professor of political science at MSSU, at 625-9697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.