Gun control town hall at firing range erupts as tempers flare

A town hall on gun control featuring Congresswoman Haley Stevens ended early as tempers flared and the arguing turned to shouting Tuesday.

It was held at the Multi Lakes Conservation Association and organizers were not transparent as to what the town hall would be about when it was booked at the club. Many of the members did not find out until recently that it would be about guns and gun control.

The goal was to find common ground on solutions to gun violence, but organizers found how wide the rift between some gun owners and pro-gun control advocates really is.

"This is why the NRA has got to go," shouted Rep. Haley Stevens (D-11th District). "The NRA has got to go."

Stevens, State House Democratic Leader Christine Greig and State Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Berkley) led the town hall at the conservation club where many of its members are gun owners.

The conversation, ironically, took place in the club's indoor gun range.

"I think they just snuck it in here," said Meshawn Maddock. "I can tell you that the members of this gun club are not happy about it."

Gun owners showed up to the town hall in droves, spurred on in part by GOP 11th Congressional District Chair Meshawn Maddock.

"Somehow Fems for Dems booked this event using a different name," Maddock said. "The sweet woman I talked to said that it said Fems for Life on her calendar. We needed to show up here and tell Haley Stevens exactly what we think about her gun violence town hall behind held in a very Republican - this is a Republican stronghold."

While taking questions from the crowd, the Democratic lawmakers pushed for more gun control measures like Universal Background Checks, a ban on semi-automatic rifles, and implementing red flag laws to take guns away from people who may be a threat to themselves or the public.

"I want people to understand that we are not anti-gun, we are anti-gun violence," said Wittenberg. "And supporting the Second Amendment and being opposed to gun violence are not mutually exclusive."

"In 1999 there were $2.7 million concealed pistol license holders in the United States registered in the United States," said Justin Nazaroff. "As of 2017 there are almost 17 million so that number has grown significantly. Crime has gone down, violent crime has gone down, homicides have gone down."

Passions ran high Tuesday evening, stifling the opportunity for meaningful dialogue on one of the country's most pressing issues.

"Part of the reason why this went the way it did, is because you have a lot of people on the extreme end," said Ann Anderson, a gun control advocate. "The reaction from the people here today was starting out from the assumption you are going to take my guns. And when you start with that, and that fear, it's very hard to have communication."

"We need to be part of the conversation regarding what we do about violence in this country in general," said Nazaroff. "Many of us don't believe it is a gun violence problem but more of a general violence problem."