In town hall, voices ring loud on gun debate
January 9th, 2013
09:20 AM ET
1 year ago

In town hall, voices ring loud on gun debate

(CNN) – A congressman took the renewed gun debate from Capitol Hill to his constituents in California, holding a town hall Tuesday night on gun control nearly a month after a gunman massacred 27 people in Newtown, Connecticut before shooting himself.

Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson, tapped by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to explore proposals for new firearm regulations, met with residents in Napa for a passion-filled debate on how best to curb gun violence.

"I'm a sportsman, I'm a gun owner, and I think our failure to come together and to deal with this is going to reflect poorly on the future of sports men and women gun owners," Thompson, a wounded Vietnam veteran, told the audience. "I think we can in fact make some good of this."

The town hall is one of many high profile conversations taking place this week. Vice President Joe Biden is holding meetings–including a sit-down with the National Rifle Association–at the White House to find similar recommendations. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head two years ago this week, and her husband Mark Kelly launched a website Tuesday aimed at finding solutions.

And CNN's Piers Morgan held a now-viral interview Monday with Alex Jones, a radio host who unleashed fury over what he describes as threatening attacks against the Second Amendment.

Speaking at the town hall Tuesday, Thompson said he supports banning the same type of assault weapon used in the Connecticut shooting, as well as the movie theater rampage in Aurora, Colorado earlier this year.

"As a gun owner and a hunter, I don't think they do us any good. I think it's a cloud over our heads. And I don't think that they should be in our communities, and I don't think that they should be in our streets," he said.

"The fact of matter is that there is too much violence," he continued. "There has been over 800 people killed because of gun violence since the tragedy in Connecticut, and we really need to do something about it."

Tuesday's town hall was the first of three this week. Thompson will meet with residents in Vallejo on Wednesday and Santa Rosa on Thursday.

In addition to regulations, Thompson's task force is looking into other issues, such as mental health and the proliferation of violence in entertainment and media. "It's extremely complicated, and there are a lot of moving pieces."

But some residents–gathered in a standing-room-only crowd at Napa City Hall–argued that any type of movement against gun ownership could be a slippery slope towards the elimination of all guns.

"It's not the guns that kill people. It's the people that kill people, and it's the mentally ill that kill people," said John Staggs, a certified NRA instructor. "You said that (800) people died from handguns?...Well 63 million people, legal gun owners, didn't kill anybody today."

He also took issue with proposals to prevent the purchase of large capacity magazines, devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

"A magazine has never killed anyone either and you can say, well we're gonna put ten rounds in a magazine," Staggs said. "That's wonderful, sure. You tape two together, turn it upside down and have 20 rounds. It doesn't matter how many rounds you have. If you're mentally ill and gonna kill somebody, you're gonna kill somebody."

Another individual argued that places with strict gun bans tend to have more gun violence, raising Chicago as an example.

"I don't think banning guns is the way to approach helping our kids and keeping us safe," the individual said.

Some gun rights supporters reiterated the NRA proposal to equip every school in the country with an armed guard, a recommendation announced one week after last month's elementary school shooting.

Thompson said Wednesday on MSNBC that "there were some folks who didn't bring anything to the picnic and they were more about rhethoric than anything else. But there was very serious interest about fixing the problems that we have that contribute to gun violence."

Though tensions got high at points, the debate never erupted into over-the-top dueling, as members of the audience cheered and clapped almost equally at both sides of the argument.

One woman, who works with mentally impaired adults, called for gun permits to be re-evaluated like drivers licenses, saying people "change throughout their lives."

"Disease and emotional stress often impair a person's judgment and cognition," said a woman who identified herself as Linda. "In crisis many people turn their guns on others despite no documented history of mental illness."

Another woman, who identified herself as "just a regular person in life," seemed to cringe at the thought of providing more public places with guns.

"I want to be able to look at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and to me that does not mean a gun in every school. A gun in every studio. A gun in every theater. A gun everywhere. To me, that is not safety in our community," she said, adding that when she listens to the NRA's proposal for school safety, she feels she "could vomit."

– CNN's Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.


Filed under: California • Congress • Gun rights
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. mcskadittle

    I am fine with people owning any of the guns in the picture, maybe we should restrict gun owner ship to guns made before 1900

    January 9, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    "I'm a sportsman, I'm a gun owner, and I think our failure to come together and to deal with this is going to reflect poorly on the future of sports men and women gun owners," Thompson, a wounded Vietnam veteran, told the audience.
    --------------–
    "going to"? A maniacal minorty already has reflected poorly on gun owners.

    January 9, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  3. wwf

    You said that (800) people died from handguns?...Well 63 million people, legal gun owners, didn't kill anybody today." How stupid is that. If that is the best they can come up with a reason, then lets make drunk driving legal under the same argument.

    January 9, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  4. John

    Great. They have a town hall meeting to discuss gun control in a state where the gun used in the Conn.. shooting is already illegal. Talk about agendas.

    January 9, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    John

    Great. They have a town hall meeting to discuss gun control in a state where the gun used in the Conn.. shooting is already illegal. Talk about agendas.
    ----------
    Thank-you for demonstrating why so many people are fearful of irresponsible gun owners. Some don't pay attention or choose to ignore the facts. The town hall was conducted in California, not Connecticut.

    January 9, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  6. Rick 7809

    If you look at the second amendment argument from the standpoint of the NRA and supporters, the reason for gun ownership is to rise against the tyrrany of the government. So if you are to own guns for that purpose, just who are you expecting to kill. On the "government side" are local, state and federal law enforcement, the national guard units and the military. So what makes John Doe gun owner think he has a chance against the resources of those agencies. Just think Waco. How does an AR-15 provide any reasonable person a chance against an armored personell carrier or urban assult vehicle? In the 21st century the rules for gun ownership should not be set by an 18th century document.

    January 9, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  7. Sniffit

    Annual re-licensing with strict background checks and evaluations. Annual re-registration of all firearms owned that requires the presence of the firearms at the registry office, not just filling out a form and sending it in the mail...and a national registration database to go with it. Periodic mental health evaluations and a doctor's approval every 5 years. Massive, no-questions-asked gun buyback program that pays market value plus 10% for every gun turned in. Legislation like CO's that loosens up some of the restrictions on evaluations and emergency commitments for potentially violent mentally ill individuals. Tax every single gun and ammo transaction at a simmilar rate to what we tax booze or cigarettes. And of course, NO MORE FREEKIN LOOPHOLES WHATSOEVER.

    Sure, there's a lot we can do short of "banning" guns, but even when we start talking about those solutions, the only ones the 2nd Amendment whackjobs find acceptable are the ones that have nothing to do with guns and gun ownership themselves. The only thing I just listed that they'll even be willing to discuss is CO's changes to mental health laws. You can't have a rational discussion, debate or negotiation with people whose starting position is an absolute, and they believe that any and all restrictions, monitoring, etc., on gun ownership is ALREADY unconstitutional. We need to just ignore them at this point if they continue to exhibit rigid recalcitrance. Enough is enough.

    January 9, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  8. sonny chapman

    As an avid lifetime hunter, I urge all hunters to get a DIVORCE from the NRA. We had this issue rise up before between Jim Zumbo, a great Sportsman, & Ted Nugent, an egomaniac, and the Sportsmen failed to back Zumbo. Sportsman, nobody has ever or will ever lose hunting opportunities if Assault weapons or if 30 shot pistol clips are banned.

    January 9, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  9. ST

    All leaders have to play their part. They are elected to fix what is broken and guide people how to live in a very acceptable way. The disadvantages of possessing assault weapons outweighs the advantages. Leaders must fix laws regardless of some people's voices, after all, human beings are disciplined by abiding to laws.

    January 9, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    sonny chapman

    As an avid lifetime hunter, I urge all hunters to get a DIVORCE from the NRA. We had this issue rise up before between Jim Zumbo, a great Sportsman, & Ted Nugent, an egomaniac, and the Sportsmen failed to back Zumbo.

    Sportsmen, nobody has ever or will ever lose hunting opportunities if Assault weapons or if 30 shot pistol clips are banned.
    -----------------–
    I guess that really depends upon what type of prey you wish to hunt. Hmm?

    January 9, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. BigTBone

    Sniffit, Absolutely spot on. The ones who are screaming the loudest in support of guns abandon reality so quickly.

    "You can't have a rational discussion, debate or negotiation with people whose starting position is an absolute, and they believe that any and all restrictions, monitoring, etc., on gun ownership is ALREADY unconstitutional. We need to just ignore them at this point if they continue to exhibit rigid recalcitrance. Enough is enough."

    January 9, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Sniffit

    Annual re-licensing with strict background checks and evaluations and a nice fee to go with it.

    Annual re-registration of all firearms owned that requires a nice fee and the presence of the firearms at the registry office as proof that you still possess the firearm (and woe to those who cannot present proper records if they no longer possess it)...not just filling out a form and sending it in the mail. National, public registration database to go with it.

    Mandatory periodic mental health evaluations and a doctor's approval every X years.

    Hefty criminal penalties, sentences and fines for violations. Let's start putting away irresponsible gun owners with nice long sentences like those handed out to someone who did nothing wrong other than get caught with a small bag of weed.

    Massive, no-questions-asked gun buyback program that pays market value plus 10% for every gun turned in.

    Legislation like CO's that loosens up some of the restrictions on evaluations and emergency commitments for potentially violent mentally ill individuals.

    Tax every single gun and ammo transaction at a similar rate to what we tax cigarettes.

    And of course, NO MORE GUN SHOW OR OTHER LOOPHOLES WHATSOEVER. NONE.

    Sure, there's a lot we can do short of "banning" guns, but even when we start talking about those solutions instead of "bans," the only ones the 2nd Amendment whackjobs find acceptable are the ones that have no direct relationship with with guns and gun ownership. The only thing I just listed that they'll even be willing to discuss is CO's changes to mental health laws. You can't have a rational discussion, debate or negotiation with people whose starting position is an ideological absolute, and they believe that any and all restrictions, monitoring, etc., on gun ownership is ALREADY unconstitutional. We need to just ignore them at this point if they continue to exhibit rigid recalcitrance. Enough is enough.

    January 9, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. GuestAgain

    Actually Rudy, the media has led you to believe that legal gun owners are commtting most crimes when in fact it is the gangs of thugs, drug dealers, illegals, low life hoodlums who dont care about laws and get their weapons illegally. But it evidently too difficult to stop these criminals so it is more politcally palatable to attack our rights as law abiding citizens.
    Call 911 and see how long it takes for a cop to show up, if the intruder is armed you'll be dead long before they arrive.

    January 9, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. Tom Napa

    I attended the forum and did not hear anything to address some of the good sportsmen and shooters in the room whom I personally know have maybe ten or more thousand dollars tied up in their range rifles and equipment. Do you imagine that they want to risk problems? They are very angry and afraid of the DOJ confiscating their expensive personal possessions, and of course, all the headaches that follow. If we came into the Reader's or the good Congressman's home an took an equivalent amount of his favorite possessions, It is not right to seize our property without full remuneration. A very conservative estimate of gun owners' financial concern: 3 million rifles at $1500 (at 50% of usual costs) apiece = $4.5 BILLION American dollars of our personal property seized by the government. Not a penny of that will impact the criminals who commit violence with primarily concealable handguns. And they will be target next when this does not make any difference. It is not right to rob law abiding citizens who are making the effort to obey the laws and attend forums such as last night. Please consider registration and qualification of those of whom I speak. Please consider the NRA members reading this to make a personal commitment to a permanent Gun Safety Task Force within the organization to address the very clear problems with criminals and risky people having firearms.

    January 9, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  15. onlyfacts

    I'm so tired of the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" rant. Of all the violence in this country how many of these mass murders were carried out by throwing rocks or throwing knives or bombs or throwing bullets? People WITH GUNS, kill people. Most cities have a law stating you cannot smoke in public places, because the smoke is harmful to others, you can't speed on our roads because it could be harmful to others, you can't dump oil in the street drain because it could be harmful to others, you can't throw your trash wherever you choose, because it could be harmful to others. But we have laws that allow anyone to purchase and carry loaded guns wherever they want. Humans can be the stupidest species on the planet. Are we the most civilized or the least?

    January 9, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    GuestAgain wrote:

    Actually Rudy, the media has led you to believe that legal gun owners are commtting most crimes when in fact it is the gangs of thugs, drug dealers, illegals, low life hoodlums who dont care about laws and get their weapons illegally. But ......
    ------------
    That is so absurdly ridiculous. Do you know where your thugs, dealers, illegals, and hoodlums are getting their weapons? They get them through the gun show loopholes and states without stricter gun laws. 80% of gun crimes are committed with legally purchased weapons that were bought out of state. Most of the remaining 20% of the crimes are committed with stolen weapons.

    January 9, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. blue dog

    Adam lanza's mom was a legal owner of not one but multiple guns. None of them protected her. Moreover this legal owner gave easy access to her guns to her son, who may or may not have cleared any mental exams. human brain is wonderful but sensitive organ. Even if it is OK now does not guarantee that an external emotional or physical trigger will not cause cause its wiring to go haywire. U can have our guns but I should have my right to live without fear of u going nuts and create havoc with our guns.

    January 9, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  18. Sniffit

    "the media has led you to believe that legal gun owners are commtting most crimes "

    No. Nobody thinks that. I'd say "nice try," but it wasn't. How about "nice straw man" instead?

    January 9, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. rob

    Another woman, who identified herself as "just a regular person in life," seemed to cringe at the thought of providing more public places with guns.

    Well if she "could vomit" after hearing the NRA's suggestion then she will be doing alot more vomiting if she reads about the many Mayors in communities around the region who are in fact calling for armed security guards in their schools.

    Even a derainged person withn a gun will think twice if he or she knows there is an armed person around.

    January 9, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  20. ron tompkins

    As a long time hunter I agree somewhat with both sides of this debate. There is absolutely no need for assault type firearms with 30 shot clips for anyone but law enforcement so these are the firearms that need to be targeted, true hunting firearms should be readily available AFTER proper training courses, licensing and background checks. Hand guns need to become a restricted weapon and no licenses should ever be issued for for carrying them concealed,this nonsense is how you end up with "stand your ground" laws that are getting unarmed, non threatening people killed by the idiots running around with firearms they never should have been allowed to buy let alone carry.

    January 9, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  21. plain&simple

    It's never just one thing to solve a problem,but a combination of things. Also you have to have movement in a direction. Read Sniffit....it contains the ingredients necessary to bring reasonable change.

    January 9, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  22. judy

    Why is it that any discussion about guns leads the NRA members to conclude that the government is taking away their guns and trampling on the 2nd amendment.? When watching these screaming crazies it should scare everyone that these people own guns. Target practice hunting and any trap or shooting contests do not use 30 clip semi automatic guns. Will it help maybe? to ban these clips and assault type weapons. Should we try?

    January 9, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. Oakspar77777

    The person "who could vomit" likely would if a madman with a gun was drawing down on her. What would she do? Cry for help. From whom? Anyone with a gun who could stop the madman.

    No one wants armed police on every corner. What we want and need is the American people to have their free, natural, God-given, and Constititionally protected right to be armed whenever they so desire.

    In states with strong CCW laws and populations, those places she mentioned are full of guns all of the time (with no bad results). Psycopaths are generally cowardly, and look for places where the people are disarmed.

    January 9, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. mike hunt

    do you people even look at crime stats, gun stats, and history, or do you just go off your emotion that guns can kill people, killing is bad, so guns are bad? more people die from being assaulted with a hammer than with an AR-15. Half the recent "mass shootings" occured w/out assualt rifles and during an assault rifle ban. you people dont want to stop gun crime, you just know conservatives like guns so therefore you have to hate guns.

    January 9, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |