City Leaders Insist There's No Hidden Agenda at Mt. Vernon Gun Forum

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — Forums hosted by mayors or city council members don't typically draw a big crowd. But one taking place in Mount Vernon Saturday, February 9th might prove the exception. That's because the topic is guns and community safety. The forum is set to take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at Mount Vernon city hall. And with guns on the agenda, a lot of rumors are swirling about just what the mayor and some council members have in mind.

Mount Vernon council member Slaton Anthony said the city is not coming in with the idea of trying to restrict gun ownership in Mount Vernon. In fact, some kind of local ordinance require a city registration of guns probably wouldn't be legal under state law. Anthony said he's gotten a few questions this week and tried to reassure people that city leaders simply want to start a conversation — is there a problem and what should the community do if there are concerns about guns.

"The goal really is to stir up some conversation and you really have to ask some hard questions sometimes to get people to come, show up, give their input and communication," Anthony said.

Mount Vernon Mayor Scott Peterson said he conducts a public forum once a month on topics of community interest. Occasionally, there's so little interest no one besides the mayor and some on the council even show up at city hall for the event. But after a letter from the mayor in the community's newspaper on Thursday, some residents are starting to notice what's happening on Saturday and they're both talking and taking sides.

Holly Johnson, a resident having lunch at a local cafe, said "I think they (council) have absolutely no business getting involved in gun control." But another diner, Sherri Daylong, said "I think it's a discussion that has to happen."

Council member Anthony said when he's gotten calls about the purpose of the gun forum at city hall, he reassures callers Mount Vernon has no underlying gun problem the council is trying to address Nor, he said, is there a hidden agenda at work. "No one has any desire to take away guns. No one has any desire to infringe on 2nd Amendment rights. No one even has a desire to have a conversation about whether the 2nd Amendment is good or bad," he said.

Anthony said he personally supports a gun buyback program like the ones offered in larger cities to encourage people to bring in firearms for disposal. He'll bring it up Saturday at the mayor's gun forum. But he said that idea won't go anywhere if residents don't want to support it.
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