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BLOOMINGTON — Two Twin City-area congressmen will skip "Town Hall For Our Lives" events this week in their districts.

Republican U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Darin LaHood of Dunlap are not attending town hall meetings they were invited to in Champaign and Eureka, respectively, as part of an effort by students nationwide to address gun violence.

Davis said of a meeting Thursday evening hosted by University of Illinois-Urbana Students Against Gun Violence that he plans to continue his long-held policy of not attending town hall meetings, which he's referred to as "grandstanding events."

His November opponent, Springfield Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, attended.

"I'm not going to change what we've been doing just because people who are politically opposed to me ask me to," Davis told The Pantagraph. "I've had plenty of opportunities, even over this break, where we sit down and talk with many different constituents. We have our open office hours (when) we allow people to come in — 26 times we've had open office hours in Bloomington-Normal and Champaign alone."

Davis said that doesn't mean he won't publicly debate Londrigan, however.

"I've always debated my opponents and will find out how we can continue to make that happen," he said. "What I've always done ... is debated my opponent on the issues. (I'm) happy to debate my opponent, happy to talk about what our differences are, happy to talk about the differences between a Republican-led Congress versus a Nancy Pelosi-led House."

LaHood is not available for a 5:30 p.m. Saturday town hall meeting at Eureka College Theatre, he said in a statement. LaHood's November opponent, Democrat Junius Rodriguez of Eureka, teaches at the college and will attend.

“I am encouraged that students across the country and in (my district) are engaging politically and working to have their voices heard on issues related to school safety and reducing violence,” said LaHood. 

Rodriguez thanked Eureka High School students for organizing the event. He supports a higher age and longer waiting period for gun purchases, as well as universal background checks.

"We need to use this opportunity to have a thoughtful and civil discussion on the issue of gun violence in American society, because we've never been presented a better opportunity," Rodriguez said.

Three other congressional representatives — U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican, and Democratic U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin — are not listed on a map of "Town Hall For Our Lives" events at townhallproject.com. Their offices did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

"Town Hall For Our Lives" is the latest effort by students to address gun violence inspired by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 were killed. The nationwide "March For Our Lives" March 24 included an event in downtown Bloomington.

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Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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Normal and McLean County Reporter

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