Barack Obama’s proposal for stricter national gun control stirred a mix of emotions from both pro-Second Amendment and gun control advocates living in San Luis Obispo earlier this month.
Many from both sides agree that hunting and sporting weapons should be permitted, however, the proposed ban on assault weapons remains controversial.
California Senator Lois Capps believes Obama’s plan is the right approach to reduce gun violence, Capps’ press secretary Ashley Schapitl said.
“It is a multi-faceted plan which looks at ways that we can look at guns, as well as mental health components,” Schapitl said.
The plan addresses violence in schools directly by allocating resources to ensure school safety, she said. This additional revenue provides the opportunity for schools to have a resource officer on duty and increase the number of mental health employees in schools.
Californians, and citizens from San Luis Obispo in particular, will not see a change in gun laws if this plan is implemented, Schapitl said. The laws in Congress regarding universal background checks and reducing the number of magazines (which limit the bullets fired per minute) are modeled after current California gun control polices.
However, not everyone from San Luis Obispo shares Capps’ view on firearm restrictions.
Gun rights advocate Steve Odom said gun control only affects citizens who obtain guns legally.
“I think a law abiding citizen should have the right to defend himself,” said Odom, co-owner of firearms training facility Spartan Training Resources. “And if they chose a semi-automatic rifle for defense of themself and their property, then they shouldn’t be prohibited from that.”
On the other hand, San Luis Obispo Democratic Party Chair Patricia Harris said she does not personally see the need for any United States citizen to have an assault weapon.
The proposed gun control laws pave the way for controlling the use of firearms, a path she is fond of, she said.
“I’m hoping that there’s been a real change in people’s attitude and the people will see the value of regulating gun use and gun purchasing in the country,” Harris said.
Though Harris is in favor of weapons used for sport, she would like to see firearms — particularly assault weapons — more closely watched, she said.
Odom, however, said he does not think the Constitution permits restriction on assault weapons, and the restrictions will not prevent future mass shootings, because people who are committing them do not adhere to the law, he said.
One aspect of the proposed restrictions Odom is in favor of is the increased emphasis on background checks, to make sure criminals or the mentally ill don’t have access to firearms.
“I don’t have a problem with that at all,” he said. “I think that’s reasonable and responsible.”
However, even with the stricter emphasis on background checks, Odom still believes it is only the first step to preventing further shootings in schools and public places, he said.
Increased funding for mental health is another side-issue that should be addressed, he said. The main focus should be on having more secure layouts, more security members and armed security on duty.
“It’s the same as having a fire extinguisher or a sprinkler system in a school to prevent fires,” he said. “The only way to prevent a violent person with a gun from killing other people is to have an armed and trained force there ready to act.”
Congress needs to stop focusing on gun control polices and start addressing issues that will actually limit violence, he said.
“The lawmakers do not have enough knowledge about firearms to make common sense laws that actually cannot be easily worked around,” Odom said. “The laws are overly complicated and they are not enforcing the laws that are already in place very well.”
Gun control restrictions might make a lot of people feel better, but they do not really have a lot of meaningful impact on this situation, he said.
Harris, on the other hand, said placing more restrictions on firearms will not prevent every criminal from obtaining a gun, but it will stop a few.
“You can get just about anything you want illegally,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to make it more difficult.”