Push to support assault weapons ban moves to City Council

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SAN DIEGO – A resolution supporting efforts to re-institute a federal ban on assault weapons was forwarded Wednesday to the San Diego City Council by one of its committees, but without a recommendation on whether it should be approved.

assault weaponsCouncilman David Alvarez introduced the resolution at a meeting of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, proposing that the panel endorse a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to re-instate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

The resolution offered by Alvarez calls for the city to support Feinstein’s bill, along with legislation to prevent the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The draft resolution also asks that California’s congressional delegation back the measure and that the state direct more money into mental health services.

“Perhaps if these people were to receive mental health services early on, they wouldn’t be picking up a gun,” said Marti Emerald, City Councilmember.

Councilman Alvarez noted that the number of mass casualty shooting incidents has risen over the last 14 years, at a time when the overall crime rate has fallen.

Military-style weapons with large ammunition clips “are not necessary for sportsmen or home protection and constitute a demonstrated threat to the public,” Alvarez said.

San Diego police Chief William Lansdowne told the committee that he fully supported the resolution.

“We see it as a critical issue for public safety and certainly for law enforcement,” Lansdowne said.

SDPD officers have twice in recent weeks been confronted by men wielding assault rifles during domestic violence calls, the chief said. He said two major incidents involving such weapons took place last year.

“Now it’s time to get to the solution, part of solution may be banning assault weapons,” said Emerald.

Opponents of Feinstein’s bill contend that it is vague and focuses on the appearance of weapons, not their functionality.

“I don’t think these assault weapons belong on our streets,” said Kelli McCarthy.  McCarthy is a Mother of a 13-year old daughter and the President of the local chapter of the Brady Campaign.  “I don’t want my daughter going to school and being afraid, I don’t want to be afraid when she’s at school.”

Committee members Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf said the issue should go before the Rules Committee, where it could be reconciled with a call for a reduction in gun violence that is already part of the city’s lobbying program.

“There are many bills making their way both through Congress as well as our state Legislature that are attempting to make our streets, schools and public places safer,” Kersey said. “To say that this particular bill is the best of those, or the most important of those, out of all the ones being considered, seems short-sighted.”

He said public officials really need to focus on getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and get the federal and state governments to do more to identify and treat people with mental problems.

Feinstein’s office said city councils in Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Lemon Grove and National City have recently passed resolutions supporting the proposed assault weapon ban, as has the San Diego Unified School District.

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