American Public Square at Jewell to host gun violence discussion with Kansas City Star

American Public Square at Jewell will gather panelists and audience members virtually Feb. 17 to discuss solutions to the gun violence epidemic in Missouri. “Gun Violence in Missouri: Seeking Solutions” will start at 12:30 p.m. and is co-hosted by the Kansas City Star. 

The event is a part of American Public Square’s series on gun violence. Denesha Snell, program director for American Public Square, said the organization’s goal with these events is to help people understand the root causes of gun violence. 

“With the first three programs, we’ve really talked about what was going on in Kansas City, the things that were happening in Springfield, as well as St. Louis,” Snell said. “That’s probably one of the biggest things is really just helping people understand that there is a gun violence issue and depending on where you are in the state it may look different.”

The event will feature panelists with a variety of expertise. One panelist will be Missouri Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove. Bland Manlove, who is from Kansas City, will help discuss state laws and policies surrounding gun control and gun violence. 

Another panelist is Dr. Marvia Jones, head of violence prevention and policy for the Kansas City Health Department. Snell said she thinks it is important for people to understand gun violence as a public health issue. 

American Public Square hopes to put the social determinants of health at the center of their conversation on gun violence. Social determinants of health are the different factors that make a community healthy.

These determinates include education, access to healthcare, discrimination, incarceration housing, economic stability and access to transportation. All of these factors impact the health of members of a community. 

Violence also makes an impact on the health of a community. In 2018, there were 249 arrests per every 100,000 adolescents for violent crimes. Kids who enter the justice system are more likely to struggle in school, deal with mental health issues and have problems with substance abuse.

“Something as simple as a high school diploma can help make for a healthy community,” Snell said.

American Public Square is working with the Kansas City Star on its gun violence initiative. Snell said the Kansas City Star recently received grants from the Missouri Foundation for Health and Report for America. They are using these grants to report on gun violence in Missouri and to uncover what gun violence looks like across the state.

The Kansas City Star’s gun violence investigation articles have been running for the past year. These articles have also been printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Springfield Newsleader.  The goal is to both bring attention to the state of violent crime in Missouri and brainstorm practical solutions.

“They’re writing the articles, we’re putting in the programs to support those articles and to support that gun violence prevention,” Snell said. 

Recordings of American Public Square’s past programming on gun violence in Missouri can be found on their website. Registration for the upcoming event is free and also available on the American Public Square website.

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