Coffee with your congressman: Congressman Bruce Westerman addressed current issues last week in Arkadelphia

Story by Easton Cowart Student Reporter

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 Arkansas District 4 Representative, Bruce Westerman, hosted an event called, “Coffee With Your Congressman” Tuesday in Arkadelphia Town Hall to discuss current issues with his constituents. 

A jovial atmosphere filled the room, along with the smell of free coffee and donuts. Men and women of assorted age and background all shuffled into the room eager to hear the Congressman, and in turn speak their mind to their Representative. 

It was apparent by the conversations among the crowd that this was a mixed bag of viewpoints, but the mood was cordial. People began to mix and share ideas quickly forming small cliques of similar viewpoints, sometimes slightly disagreeing, but only on the friendliest of terms. 

Then, enters the Congressman, wearing a friendly grin, giving out handshakes along with the rest of the pleasantries you would expect from a standard politician. 

A hush falls on the crowd, after a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, the speaking section of this event begins. The short speech is standard political prose, cataloguing all of the advancements the Representative feels Arkansas has made in the recent past ranging from taxes to healthcare. 

“We are seeing a booming economy right now both here in Arkansas, and across the country” said Representative Westerman. The speech is concluded with an urge to encourage senators to open debates on areas of the tax code, followed by an opening for questions. 

“There is tons of things I could talk about, but what I really want to do is talk to you, and see what you have to say” said Westerman. 

From the moment that sentence was spoken, the feeling of the room immediately turned. The transfer and debate of ideas began from the moments questions were asked. 

Not once during the opening speech did the Representative address recent issues of gun violence, or gun control, this left an opening for discussion to be had and questions were rapidly fired from the audience towards the senator about gun control and issues pertaining to it. 

Westerman took the stance of the issue lying among individuals, and society in general rather than weapons much to the dismay of several citizens. “If we think we are going to regulate away our problems, we’re fooling ourselves,” responded Westerman after asked if he supported regulations centered around deadly weapons, background checks and how loaded guns are handled in public setting. 

The back and forth lasted for more than half an hour with both sides audibly hissing and laughing at their opposition, including one of Westerman’s aides himself. To say the least tensions were high. 

The conversation fluctuated to many topics, including welfare, minimum wage, and even the merits of southern heritage, but the dry, nervous atmosphere never left the room (this was not helped by the heat being on during half of the event unnecessarily). The message was clear however that some Arkadelphia citizens, and perhaps many more of Westerman’s constituents want something to be done about mass shootings in America. 

Even some people who generally find themselves on the conservative side of politics, are agreeing that something must change in order to save the lives of Americans, and American children. 

“We’re not talking about banning guns, or taking everyone’s guns away,” said Laura Storm, the local group leader of a national organization called Moms Demand Action, focused on gun issues facing America. “I do think that there are plenty of gun owners that support common sense gun reform.” 

Laura however does not believe that today’s political climate is allowing for opinions like hers to be discussed and considered fairly. “I don’t think we are in an atmosphere politically for compromise.” 

It is true that political pressure is building, what is not clear is if lawmakers are to truly listening to their constituents about issues like these or if they are waiting for the smoke to clear from one mass shooting, until the conversation inevitably leaves the collective conversations of America. 

The conversation however at the moment is still being had 

It seems that both sides of the issue both have drastically different ideas for how the uniquely American problem of mass shootings should be handled. Should we ban all guns, some guns, or no guns? 

Should we arm teachers and students to defend themselves? Is this a mental health problem or a gun problem. It doesn’t seem like we are agreeing on much right now, other than the fact that something must be done this time, not the next time a mass shooting occurs in America. 

“Everybody in this country needs to work together,” said Daniel Middleton a citizen who attended “Coffee With Your Congressman.” “Common sense is a thing of the past.” 

Conversations like the one held in Town Hall Tuesday are important, maybe uncomfortable but important. It is important that we keep talking about issues like these no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum. 

It is important that we look within ourselves and decide how we genuinely feel about these issues rather than clinging to whatever our political affiliation must say about it. 

Policy makers must realize that this problem hangs heavy on the head of their voters, and action must be taken, and in order for them to realize this we must continue to have conversations like these no matter how uncomfortable, tense or even hostile they become. 

As the saying goes “You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.” Some feelings must be hurt, even if they’re your own. If we challenge every potential solution to the utmost scrutiny, to see what the most effective answer is despite political leanings we may take a step forward in ending these atrocities that plague us seemingly endlessly. 

Think about it. Talk about it. Don’t let this become “just another mass shooting.”