(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.