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Santa Rosa City Council supports federal assault weapons ban

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 8:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.

The day after the Petaluma City Council expressed support for the federal assault weapons ban, the Santa Rosa City Council fired off two letters supporting efforts by Sen. Diane Feinstein and Congressman Mike Thompson to curb gun violence.

Both letters referenced the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and 6 adults were killed by a gunman using an assault-style rifle.

"These letters are an appropriate response to a horrific act," Councilwoman Julie Combs said.

The letter to Feinstein, D-San Francisco, supported her efforts to renew and broaden the 1994 assault weapons ban she sponsored and which expired after 10 years.

It includes a ban on weapons with magazines of more than 10 rounds, requires background checks for certain weapons, establishes a buyback program for weapons and exempts from the ban more than 2,200 models used largely by sportsmen.

The second letter urges Thompson, D-St. Helena, in his role as chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, to take a comprehensive approach toward reducing gun violence. The council encouraged the U.S. Attorney's Office to "aggressively prosecute" gun-related crimes under existing laws, but also to explore other measures.

"This could include efforts such as strengthening the use of background checks, improving mental health services, and keeping military-type guns and assault magazines out of our communities, among other efforts," reads the letter. Both are signed by Mayor Scott Bartley.

A handful of residents condemned the council's action, some claiming it was part of a conspiracy to deprive people of their constitutional rights. One resident praised the council.

Councilman Ernesto Olivares, a retired police lieutenant, said he appreciated the letter's emphasis on upholding existing gun laws. He and other council members stressed that the law should not be viewed as stripping people of their right to bear arms.

"It's about reducing gun violence," Olivares said. "I am not anti-gun, but I am anti-violence. We all should be."

Councilman Jake Ours, who noted that he has been a hunter and a member of the National Rifle Association, said he was proud to see the two legislators take a stand on the issue, noting that the NRA had "gone the wrong way."

"It's no longer time to kowtow to the NRA," Ours said.

In response to some of the criticism, Ours stressed that "there are 20 dead children" and the nation needed to do something about it. "This country is too good to allow that to happen," he said.

Bartley, who said he, too, had guns and hunted while growing up, pointed out that the federal ban is similar to the state ban first passed in 1989. "The reality of it is most of what this letter implies we already have in place in California anyway," Bartley said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. OnTwitter @citybeater

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