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Gun Discussion Draws Standing Room Only Crowd

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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa About 70 people gathered in the Mount Vernon City Hall to talk about guns and safety in the community Saturday morning.

The nearly two hour discussion was spearheaded by five members of the community, ranging from Mayor to Cornell Professor to a Mount Vernon resident. The five began the panel discussion touching base on topics surrounding Mount Vernon and gun safety, hoping to disseminate a rumor about "the city taking away everyone's guns." He said he thinks it may have started after a December City Council meeting when City Councilman Slaton Anthony brought up guns and the community, a timely topic after the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"This is not about taking sides, but it's about having a conversation," Mayor Scott Peterson said. "We realize this is a polarizing topic, and not everyone is going to agree with everything being said. But it is good to have a discussion and be respectful of others."

The town hall discussion brought up issues that extend beyond Mount Vernon, such as opinions on a ban of military-style assault rifles, concealed weapon permits and dealing with mental health, all topics being discussed on a national level.

Mount Vernon resident Dale Beeks said one of the most important things that should be mentioned during a discussion about guns is education.

"You should know them inside and outside, and if it's not being used to lock it up." Beeks said. "Fire arm enthusiasts, or 'gun nuts'...know to lock up their guns."

Police Chief Mark Winder said the department has been working closely with the school regarding safety of the staff and children. A discussion about metal detectors in schools was responded by comments from Mount Vernon Community School District member Joel Wallace who said that the funding just isn't there, and it is something "above him," and more at the School Board level.

"Right now we are locking all the doors, and you can only get in through one door," Wallace said. He mentioned a possibility of a future camera system as well as a buzzer intercom system.

Cliff Weaver has lived all 32 years of his life just west of Mount Vernon, and he said he has four boys going through the Mount Vernon Community School system. He said he would go knock on everyone's door to help get the resources to have metal detectors or a buzzer intercom system if that's what the school district needed to keep community member's children safe.

Cedar Rapids Police Department Veteran of 30 years Mark Risse, said it's sick that we expect teachers to fight with scissors and baseball bats. He said if teachers want to be taught about firearms, it should be made readily available. Joel Foreman, Director of Praise Worship at Solon High School said there are teachers out there that want to be trained on firearms. He also suggested active-shooter drills, like they do several times a year with fire and tornado drills.

Weaver said this community is very important to him and he thinks this discussion isn't intended to pull people apart, but to hopefully bring people together.

"Rather than fight tooth and nail, let's put our resources together," Weaver said.

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