Thursday, January 10, 2013

Report: Forum on Prevention of Gun Violence

Last night, I went to a Forum on Gun Violence Prevention, hosted by our Congressman, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) who, as it happens, is the chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He's been hosting forums all week to solicit ideas to bring to the table. "This is not about slogans," he said at the meeting last night. "This is about crafting good public policy."

I'll go into detail about the meeting, but I want to make sure you know to send your recommendations on what we can do to reduce gun violence to:
The Hon. Mike Thompson (click link for email)
231 Cannon Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3311
Now, back to the meeting:

It was a packed house, standing room only, and I was glad we got there about 20 minutes early so we could get seats.

We heard from the Mayor, who introduced the Congressman. After opening remarks, the Congressman introduced members of a panel including the Chief of Police, the Director of Health and Human Services for Vallejo County, and representatives from mental health services, the schools, and the Department of Justice.

The panel had some compelling speakers. The Chief of Police shared the recommendations of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which include reinstating the assault weapons ban. The school rep had the very basic suggestions of being able to lock classrooms from the inside, and having windows in the doors so you could see what was happening in the hallway.

The representative from the Department of Justice had information on the background check process in California, and statistics on the number of gun applications that were turned down. Here are the numbers: in the State of California, there are 19,000 people on the list of those prohibited from owning weapons who own 39,000 weapons. Additionally, of those who submit to background checks, 21% get turned down. Holy mackerel! What is it like in states that don't have background checks?

Then the Congressman opened up to speakers from the audience. It was a mixed bunch, as you might imagine. Most poignant were two sisters of a man shot by police last September. One of them had the very interesting comment that most police officers are required to have only one mental health evaluation, and suggested that this was one area of mental health care that should be re-examined.

Another compelling presenter had a son (?) killed by a gun purchased at a garage sale (!). He now works to educate people on the proper disposal of weapons.

Of course there was the usual back and forth about the right to bear arms versus the context of the Second Amendment. We left after the speaker who announced that "we need body armor" and hollow-point bullets. I wanted to say to him, "Do you really want to live in a country where we need body armor? Really?" But I guess he does.

Thinking about it now, I think the thing I want to ask of my Congressman is, for God's sake, stand up to the NRA and encourage others to do the same! The NRA is not all-powerful. Why are we treating them as if they are? Why do we let them set the agenda? I don't believe our policies are not going to change without that fundamental shift in attitude. So how do we get our representatives to do that? I wish I'd thought to ask him that.

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