CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Activism toward reducing gun violence, especially shootings involving kids, is continuing to grow in Southeast Missouri.
Over the last three years, three groups have formed in the region including Lock it for Love, Stop Needless Acts of violence Please , and the Southeast Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Lynda Stewart founded the local Mom's Demand Action group and said six other rural Missouri cities including Joplin, Maryville and Trenton have launched their own groups.
Stewart added that attendance at the March monthly meeting for several chapters more than doubled, and she thinks it's a reaction to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
"In St. Louis the other night, we had 1,000 people show up. They normally have 100," Stewart said. "Right here in Cape Girardeau we normally have 10 to 15 people at our meeting and we had 42 show up. People have come to the realization that we can't let this go on. We have to make some changes because school shooting after school shooting is simply not acceptable."
Stewart's organization is also sponsors Be SMART, a five step gun safety education program with the goal of reducing the number of suicides and unintentional shootings involving kids under the age of 17.
"Every year in this country over 300 kids gain access to an unsecured weapon and the shoot themselves or others," Stewart said. "And another 500 teenagers will die by suicide with a gun. In 2015 Missouri led the nation in the number of toddler shootings, and these are totally preventable.
Be SMART is also an acronym with five steps that emphasis responsible parenting and gun ownership through Securing guns in homes and vehicles, Modeling responsible behavior, Asking about unsecured guns in other homes, Recognizing the risk of teen suicide and Telling peers to also be SMART.
Stewart believes the program should be part of the solution when it comes to reducing the number of school shootings.
"In school shootings where it can be determined how the shooter gained access to the gun, 50 percent of the cases the shooter brought the gun from home," Stewart said. "These are conversation we need to have because ultimately our kids are worth it and keeping them safe is what all of this is about."
Prayers could be heard at the 400 block of Bellvue street in Cape Girardeau Tuesday evening, and were coming from members of Stop Needless Acts of violence Please.
Felice Patton founded SNAP after her son Quiton David Combs was shot and killed in November 2015 and said she has made a commitment to helping residents of Cape Girardeau recover from gun violence by connecting them the agencies and their services.
"When we heard about the two little children, one was shot and killed and another was mauled by a dog it breaks our hearts," Patton said. "We want to continue to pray for those families and provide help to those families."
Patton plans to continue offering assistance by opening a new SNAP resource center on South Sprigg in Cape later this summer.
"We want to be a place where you are needed, you're wanted and you're respected," Patton said. "When you come to SNAP we want to be that link to provide those services that are available to you. We will work with the families to do a holistic approach, break down some of their barriers and give them the information. When they leave here they'll be able to use that information and not be frustrated."
SNAP meets every fourth Tuesday of the month at Salvation Army, and the next meeting for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will be at the Cape Public Library on April 4 at 7 pm.