Discussing Gun Violence Prevention in Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee

My experiences speaking around the country about gun violence have been the exact opposite of the contentious "town hall" protests we've seen on television over the summer.
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Over the last five weeks I've had the opportunity to speak about gun violence in this country to audiences in Indianapolis (IN), Columbus (OH), and Martin (TN).

I've been pleased at how many people on all sides of the gun violence prevention issue appear willing to find some common ground on some issues, while agreeing to disagree on others. In many ways, my experiences have been the exact opposite of the contentious "town hall" protests we've seen on television over the summer.

I traveled to Indianapolis in mid-August and spoke at an event sponsored by Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence. Before I went inside to give my speech, I visited with some folks protesting the event outside the lecture hall, talked with them about their concerns and invited them to the presentation. While we didn't agree on gun policy, we did have a cordial conversation and I was glad to hear their arguments and address some of their concerns.

The discussion inside the lecture hall focused on the real life consequences of weak gun laws nationwide and in Indiana. I was pleased to see people come out to talk about gun violence prevention on a Saturday night - during the Indiana State Fair, no less.

A couple of weeks later I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to honor Mayor Michael Coleman and City Council President Michael Mentel at an event sponsored by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. These two elected officials were awarded for their efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people at the local level - efforts which have been stymied at the state level.

Though the city of Columbus had adopted restrictions on access to military-style assault weapons, the Ohio General Assembly passed a law pre-empting local firearm ordinances that invalidated the Columbus assault weapon law. Sadly, just days before the OCAGV event, two Columbus police officers were shot by an attacker reportedly armed with a 9mm handgun and an AK-47, after he fled a traffic stop.

A number of rounds were fired by the attacker, with one bullet traveling over a football field in distance. Another bullet was barely stopped by the officer's bullet-resistant vest. Luckily, both officers survived, but that tragic event reminds us how difficult the work of policing is, and how easy we make it for dangerous people to get guns in this country.

Finally, earlier this week I participated in a debate about the Second Amendment, held at the University of Tennessee at Martin, which included Nashville attorney Adam Dread, NRA-ILA Grassroots National Director Glenn Caroline, and recent UT-Martin and Drake University law school graduate Kevin Teets.

Our event happened to be competing with "rush" night at the school, but roughly 50 students and community members came out to listen to the discussion the four of us had about a number of topics, including a recent Tennessee law pushing restaurants to mix guns and alcohol by requiring them to allow guns in their establishments.

We also discussed the nature of the Second Amendment after the Heller decision and how most gun violence prevention laws appear likely to withstand scrutiny under Justice Scalia's majority opinion. One of the big stories in Tennessee, by the way, is also the move by approximately 70 cities and towns to opt out of Tennessee legislation forcing guns into parks.

My travels this summer affirmed my belief that the debate over gun violence prevention is moving toward the middle ground and away from the extremes since last summer's Supreme Court decision. There are a number of things we can do to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns while respecting the Second Amendment.

On behalf of the Brady Campaign, that is the message I'll continue to take across the country.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)

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