For Paul Temme, it was the “wake up call” of witnessing Glenn Miller, Jr., murder 14-year-old Reat Underwood in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center April 13. For Loren Stanton, it was the death of one of his son’s friends at the hands of two gun-wielding assailants in the Wichita Massacre in 2000.
Temme and Stanton, both residents of Prairie Village, say personal experiences with gun violence and its effects on the communities where it occurs are a large part of their motivation to become two of the four founding members of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s Northeast Kansas Chapter, the newest in the nation. A third founding member, Susan Blaney, is a Prairie Village resident as well.
Prior to the foundation of the group this month, the Brady Campaign did not have a chapter on the Kansas side of the line in the metro area. Stanton said the group is focused on quickly expanding its membership (in addition to the four founders, there are four additional members) and on educating the public about gun policy and gun violence.
“The new gun law taking effect July 1 is especially troubling because open carry is highly unpopular in this part of the state,” he said. “Getting that legislation reversed, or open carry repealed, is a longterm goal.”
Temme, who has lived in the area since 1996, had made donations to the Brady Campaign in the past, but he said he had gotten “complacent” about the issue of gun violence until this year. Temme was getting out of his car in the JCC parking lot April 13 when he heard the first gunshots that killed Dr. William Corporon.
“I thought that can’t possibly be gunfire here in Johnson County,” he said.
He walked toward the sound to see what it was and saw Miller point his gun into the passenger side of the car, killing Corporon’s grandson, Underwood. The shock of that experience prompted him to take action to promote what he says are “sensible gun laws.”
“I wonder if a lot of us think it doesn’t affect us,” Temme said. “I think in a way we’ve been asleep and let our legislators put things on the books most people don’t agree with.”
For his part, Stanton said he understands that gun laws couldn’t have prevented the Wichita Massacre. But that doesn’t take away from the need to challenge the prevalence of guns in American culture, he said.
“I’m just hoping in some small way to do something about the gun violence culture so maybe needless gun deaths will be a little less likely,” he said.
For more information on the group, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 913-991-4940.