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Community forum on gun violence scheduled April 26

April 20th, 2013 Posted in Opinion

By Paul Christiansen

LOGAN — The hot-button issue of gun violence in America is prominent in the media and on the minds of many people, both nationally and locally. The Cache Valley Gun Violence Community Forum, an opportunity for local citizens to express their concerns, will begin Friday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Logan’s First Presbyterian Church, 200 W. Center St.

This forum will create a safe space for people to share their questions and their perspectives, said Pastor Paul Heins, one of the event’s organizers. It will provide community members the chance to have a healthy and respectful discussion about some of the tough issues they face.

“We are not too good, in terms of our general culture, at having a conversation about tough issues that is meaningful and productive,” Heins said. “Our hope is to have a discussion on the issue of gun violence. It’s an issue that has a lot of emotion attached to it.”

The issue of gun violence is very controversial, Heins said. “In general we haven’t had a lot of good, meaningful conversation. For the most part it’s been dominated by a lot of the extremes because they tend to be louder and they often dominate the discussion.”

The forum will be based upon the specific needs of the community and will not be directed to a particular political stand, said Debra Gowen, a forum organizer.

A group of panelists representing local political, educational and medical groups will be featured at the event and will include State Representative Ed Redd and Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen.

“We are bringing together several professionals to have meaningful dialogue in wake of the many tragedies that have occurred over the past decade,” Gowen said.

Each panelist will have time to voice their thoughts on gun issues in relation to their area of expertise, Gowen said. In order to bring different concerns to the forefront of the discussion, audience members will interact with panelists through discussion and written questions.

“The panel members will share their own responses and feelings towards the many issues that confront us regarding gun violence,” Gowen said. “We would like to have these different perspectives bring us closer as a community, allowing us to gain an understanding and acceptance of all opinions and to care for one another.”

Bringing in a lot of different community representatives together will help citizens approach the issue in a comprehensive way, Heins said. But the issue itself is very complex.

“Will we be able to tackle and solve all the problems in the context of one evening?” Heins asked. “No, but will people be able to leave, perhaps thinking that we agree about more than what we think we do and that there are solutions we can compromise on? I hope we’ll be able to do that.”

Heins said communication tends to be better, deeper and more significant when people think about each other as individuals — as friends and community members — rather than numbers, political points or as parts of political agendas.

“Whenever you bring it on down to a human level, I think you’re making progress,” Heins said. “When you abstract things it’s easier to move toward the extremes. When you’re talking to real people that you respect — that are a part of your community — I think it’s easier to deal with issues in a real and productive way.”

As a preview of the forum, the David Barnhart documentary, “Trigger: The Ripple Effects of Gun Violence,” will be shown Wednesday at 7 p.m. in First Presbyterian’s Westminster Hall.

Heins said the documentary “introduces the human level into the question” by showing various interviews with people who have been affected by gun violence, either through the loss of a loved one or being personally involved in an incident.

“I think the documentary as a whole is a cry for us to address this issue and to proclaim or to say that this is an issue that we can’t just leave aside and leave to others,” Heins said.

The communities and people involved in organizing and sponsoring the forum want to create an environment where citizens can relate to each other, Heins said. Community members will be able to express their perspectives and opinions without being criticized or judged.

“As Americans, whatever our view is on guns, we are united as the majority wanting to find peace amongst all this violence,” Gowen said.


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