Hilltop Voices with Hannah Garner

Often I am guilty in regards to my attentiveness to state politics. I have no problem with staying up-to-date on a national scale, but I tend to fall short when it comes to the legislation in my community. I am aware of my error, though. National politics can be much more of a spectacle, but the local legislation is what influences our community more. Recently, I heard about a piece of bi-state, bi-partisan local legislation that was far too interesting and important to ignore.

Representative Barbara Bollier [R] of Kansas’s 21st District and Stacey Newman’s [D] of Missouri’s 28th District both are apart of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Protection, a nonpartisan coalition of nearly 200 representatives from all fifty states. The two long-time colleagues have had a focus on reducing Bollier_Gunsgun violence in their states, and both have introduced nearly identical bills. The bills would fix certain “loop holes” in current Missourian and Kansan firearms law by prohibiting those convicted for stalking and domestic violence from purchasing firearms. He or she would also have to surrender weapons they already own. Under current law, those convicted can no longer purchase firearms, but the law does nothing to confiscate what firearms they already have.

Both Kansas and Missouri have Republican majorities, and the two State bills face strong opposition in both state houses.  After talking to Newman, I knew this was far past party-supported legislation and was something about which she truly cared. Newman brought to my attention that Missouri is number seven in the country in regards to female murders by men, and more often than not, those women who lost their lives knew their assailant personally. It is not only a bill of common sense, but also a bill of health and safety. Newman said that her constituents and the public “understand the bill, and see why it is needed.” The problem with passing this bill is not a matter of whether or not it is for the good of the people, but whether or not politicians can understand the rights of those being victimized over those committing felonies. Second amendment rights are important to the state of Missouri and Kansas. There is no denying that. But the safety and the comfort of those who are victims to domestic violence and stalking should come first.

The Kansas and Missouri bills also state that family members and loved ones can impose a court-ordered firearms prohibition to those who are at risk for violence. This bill is modeled after a California law passed after the deadly shootings near the University of California-Santa Barbara campus. Newman described it as something that could “really make a difference and save lives.”

Talking to Representative Newman was one of the most thought-provoking experiences I have had as a college student and reporter. There is no denying her passion for the bill, and the true change she wants in order to protect victims of domestic violence and stalking. It is not a matter of being anti-gun or rallying against an ideology that is vastly Republican, but instead is a matter of public safety.

Bollier and Newman saw that current laws lacked that safety, and both have a strong desire to do something about it. The bill should not be a matter of party versus party, but instead should be thought as an issue that needs to be addressed and deliberately dealt with. The worst outcome would be what I used to feel about local politics: apathy. An issue that concerns public safety should not be shot down as soon as it is introduced, but rather worked on by both parties to ensure the best outcome for the public.

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