Friday forum in Pasco to examine gun violence

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJune 16, 2013 

A local club known for tackling controversial topics will examine gun violence during a forum this week at the Pasco Red Lion.

The Columbia Basin Badger Club meeting is at 11:30 a.m. Friday. It comes a little more than six months after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that left 20 students and six educators dead and stirred national debate about gun laws.

Robert Hindes of Pasco, a Badger Club member who will act as moderator of the forum, said the hope is to go beyond entrenched political views and talk about how the community can address gun violence.

"It's a very complicated subject. The thing is that at the end of the day, a lot of people are killed by guns" from mass shootings like the one in Connecticut to suicides, he said.

"It's understanding the problem -- why people die from gun violence," he said.

Hindes said the first question he'll ask the three panelists -- Dr. Amy Person, health officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District, Kennewick City Councilman Bob Parks and Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner -- during the forum is, if you could shape public policy in the Tri-Cities, what would you do to reduce gun violence?

The Badger Club grills officials, experts and newsmakers about issues but doesn't take sides. The sessions are open to the public, although only Badger Club members are allowed to ask questions of panelists.

The Herald is a Badger Club sponsor.

Person, who emphasized that she will be representing only herself and not the health district, said she will bring some data and a message of looking at gun violence as a public health issue.

"When we think about (something) from a public health standpoint, we're thinking about how do we define the problem? What are the things that may make it better or worse? And how do we prevent it?" she told the Herald.

Parks countered that, to him, the true public health issue is mental illness. "It's not a gun issue," he told the Herald.

"The real public health issue is mental health. Those are the real issues we need to deal with (as a community)," he said. "That's what needs to be talked about."

He said he also will bring data and will come ready to listen and answer questions.

Skinner couldn't be reached Friday.

For more information about the forum, go to cbbc.clubexpress.com.

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