Kansas State Rifle Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, criticized Roeland Park and Parsons city officials for collaborating with local chapters of Moms Demand Action on an annual event recognizing victims of firearm violence. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Kansas supporters of Moms Demand Action rejected Tuesday claims by the Kansas State Rifle Association that a series of local government proclamations recognizing a national gun violence awareness day was evidence of a campaign to promote unconstitutional seizure of firearms.
The Kansas State Rifle Association, the state lobbying affiliate of the National Rifle Association, said proclamations issued by officials in Parsons and Roeland Park served interests of an organization bent on limiting “rights of Kansans while doing nothing effective to reduce violence.”
A collection of cities, counties and school districts in Kansas have endorsed Moms Demand Action’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend. The events this year are set for June 2-4 and honor survivors of gun violence while bringing attention to mounting losses of life to firearms.
Colleen Sweeney Cunningham shared exasperation on social media with the Kansas State Rifle Association’s post of photographs of Moms Demand Action volunteers in conjunction with false claims “that we are working to confiscate guns.”
“That is false and their lies are dangerous,” Cunningham said.
Moriah Day, executive director of the Kansas State Rifle Association, said Moms Demand Action endorsed enactment of state red-flag laws enabling family members or law enforcement officers to intervene when someone with access to firearms exhibited signs of being a risk to themself or others. This type of law has been adopted in 17 states — but not in Kansas — to grant authorities power to temporarily hold firearms until a threat passed.
“Gun-confiscation activists have been hard at work trumpeting these successes on social media while simultaneously congratulating their gun-confiscation allies in other states for passing unconstitutional red-flag gun confiscation orders and other outrageous limits on the Second Amendment,” Day said.
He theorized passage of local proclamations was part of a public relations strategy to cloak efforts by Moms Demand Action to advance “unconstitutional gun-confiscation laws.”
Police chief’s viewpoint
Day said the proper response to deranged aggressors who violated the law wasn’t a ban on sale of popular firearms or removal of armed guards from schools. The solution shouldn’t feature restraint on the ability of potential victims of violence to maintain access to firearms if attacked, he said.
Day said it ought to infuriate Kansans that Roeland Park and Parsons officials gave traction to the “extreme gun-control lobby.” He said Kansans ought to be disturbed by the Parsons Police Department’s meeting in April with Moms Demand Action volunteers for a discussion on firearms and ammunition used by law enforcement agencies as well as information on gun violence and active shooters.
Parsons Police Chief Robert Spinks said the conversation delved into common misperceptions of firearms and potential legislative reforms capable of promoting gun safety.
“I think the presentation was very successful. I am truly grateful that Parsons Moms Demand Action was able to reach out to us for information and make themselves more knowledgeable about the subject,” the chief said. “I think that knowledge is key when it comes to gun safety and protecting our children and citizens from senseless gun violence. I hope to be able to partner with Parsons Moms Demand Action in the future for any safety campaigns they may have.”
‘Value human lives’
Day also took offense at the proclamation signed by Roeland Park Mayor Michael Poppa that said 120 Americans were killed and more than 200 wounded by gun violence daily in the United States.
The document said an average of 456 gun deaths occurred annually in Kansas, which gave the state the 21st-highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.
The proclamation said cities across the nation were striving to end senseless violence and protecting public safety was a mayor’s highest responsibility. It said Second Amendment rights of law-abiding people should go hand-in-hand with keeping guns beyond reach of people with dangerous histories.
Mayors and law enforcement officers, in partnership with local violence intervention activists, understood their communities, were the most familiar with local criminal activity and best positioned to understand how to keep their residents safe, the document said.
“I encourage individuals in Roeland Park, and across the state of Kansas, to support their local communities’ efforts to prevent the tragic effects of gun violence and to honor and value human lives,” Poppa said.
‘The real problem’
Day said the Kansas State Rifle Association wouldn’t be silent as police offices and local elected officials went out of their way to blame violence on inanimate objects, responsible firearm owners and other law-abiding Kansans rather than “putting all their time and resources behind actually fighting crime and stopping the violent criminals that are the real problem.”
He urged cities, counties and law enforcement agencies to “immediately disassociate” with Moms Demand Action and any other organization striving to restrict gun rights.
State Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, a Lenexa Democrat and former volunteer with the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action, said annual events centered on the issue of gun violence wasn’t organized as a covert effort to seize firearms. The program was part of an effort to shine a light on ramifications of ineffective gun laws that contributed to tragic deaths and injuries, she said.
Hoye said the Wear Orange project began after Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. It occurred one week after she marched in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade.
Pendleton’s friends decided to commemorate her life by wearing orange on June 2, 2015, which would have been her 18th birthday. They chose that color because some hunters wore orange to make their presence known to other hunters. This local observance in Illinois grew into National Gunn Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend.
“That movement has since grown to a day to honor all victims of gun violence,” Hoye said.
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