People met at Disciple Central Community Church in DeSoto Saturday morning, to talk about gun violence and what they think should be done about it on a local, state and national level.
The forum was planned weeks before the deadly massacre at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Many people in the audience, even some of the panelists, are gun owners who believe in the right to bear arms, but feel something needs to be done to address gun violence.
“Over the years I've looked at this issue and there is where I'm at; I respect the second amendment right to bear arms, but I don't respect the right to carry a bazooka. There's a difference,” State Senator Royce West told the crowd.
Sen. West was one of three panelists engaging the community about gun violence and what West calls a need for “sensible gun control”.
“There needs to be a balance between second amendment and all of the craziness that's going on,” he said.
State District Judge Tony Park served as a second panelist, and Amanda Johnson, the third. Johnson got involved in the gun debate after her sister shot and killed herself.
“What you might not have guessed about me hearing my story is that I'm a gun owner, my husband collects guns,” she said.
The goal of the public forum was to engage North Texans who may feel frustrated and powerless after the mass shootings in the past few years.
“Guns are such a problem and I don't have a solution so I was hoping to come and be around people who are starting to work on possible solutions,” said forum attendee Laurie Telfair.
Cheryl Fox was among the few hundred people at the forum. She says the murder of Gabrielle Simmons, a mother of six, was the final straw. Simmons was shot to death by a suspected robber on November 6th, while working at a Dollar General in East Oak Cliff.
“I feel like this really needs to get under control. It's just kind of overwhelming that these events happen every week,” said Fox.
“We have the shooting at the church last week, we have Las Vegas, we have people shooting at our congress people a few months ago and it just keeps happening,” said Brandon Herrman.
The Panelists agree there is no simple solution. Sen. West says he intends to talk to U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to see if they are willing to help get something done at the state level, if they can’t at the federal level.
“I've got to continue to sit down with the Texas Rifle Association and figure out if there is common ground,” said Sen. West.
Being a democratic lawmaker in a red state, West says he’s ready for an uphill battle, but hopes he’ll get some support from his Republican counterparts.