U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas helped put together a meeting this week to talk about gun violence. Students, lawmakers, gun rights activists, law enforcement officials and others showed up.
The meeting wasn’t open to the press or public. That means Yoder’s constituents will have to interpret what happened based on what he says about it and what other participants think took place.
Some were satisfied with the discussion. Some were more concerned. In a statement, Students Demand Action Johnson County called the meeting’s primary focus on mental health and social attitudes disheartening.
“The conversation could not discuss changing gun laws, despite our representatives’ multiple attempts to shift the focus,” the group said.
In his own statement, Rep. Yoder called the talks “productive.”
Perhaps. Closing the meeting was troublesome — discussions like this should be held in the open, for the press and the public — but even a secret roundtable would be encouraging if it appeared an actual solution would result.
That does not yet seem to be the case.
And time has run out. Kansans (and Missourians) are demanding real, concrete, comprehensive reforms to reduce the threat of mass shootings, not only at school but at churches, theaters, parks, anywhere people gather.
Talk is increasingly cheap. Actual answers — in legislation, additional money, renewed regulatory focus — are imperative.
We have argued that any approach to reducing gun violence involves an increased focus on mental health counseling. Mental health issues were discussed in the Yoder meeting, including so-called “red flag” laws that allow judges to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of the mentally ill.
That’s a place to start.
But Americans surely know addressing mental health issues alone won’t be enough. Nor will hardening schools alone, or arming teachers or banning violent video games.
It will take a multifaceted approach, including a prohibition on the sale of weapons of mass killing, to stem at least some of the bloodshed.
One school district official said the country must do “every single thing possible” to limit school violence, according to the students’ notes.
That is exactly right, not only for schools but other potential targets.
We won’t criticize Yoder for convening the meeting or promising to continue the discussion.
But he, and every elected official and candidate in 2018, should make no mistake: This year, they’ll be judged on action, not just on rhetoric, or on how many meetings they hold.