Council gun control debate will continue for another day

After 2 hours of back-and-forth debate, the Claremont City Council decided not to decide on gun control, at least for another couple weeks.

With Sam Pedroza absent from the Tuesday night meeting, the council supported refraining from a vote adopting a resolution in support of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 until all were present. The decision was made with a 3-1 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali cast the dissenting vote because he believed the council was ready to make the decision.

With the same 3-1 vote, Mayor Larry Schroeder will also hold off on adding his name to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Voting on the resolution and petition is expected to take place at the next council meeting on March 26.

The assault weapons ban is currently being considered by the US Congress in response to recent mass shootings. If approved, the ban would stop “the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices,” according to Senator Dianne Feinstein, author of the bill.

Refraining from a vote may not have been a favorable decision by all in the room, but the majority of the council, even with its difference of opinion on the topic, left the vote undecided without qualms.

“Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, Libertarian, Tea Partier or decline to state, having a public debate of sorts that we had tonight is a win-win situation,” said Mayor Larry Schroeder. “It airs the viewpoints of everybody.”

The crowd amassed at City Hall was reflective of the divide, with equal debate from all angles of the issue. There was standing room only in the City Council Chamber despite the relatively light council agenda. And not without reason. Issues of gun control have been a dominant area of debate as Claremonters and citizens across the country ponder the recent succession of mass shootings. In the wake of the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut among others, the nation has remained divided on the topic of guns—is stricter gun control the answer to the problem or would it only infringe upon the Constitutional right to bear firearms? Should guns be banned or proper gun education encouraged?

These were among the questions posed to the city council before a decision would be made. Claremont residents came to the meeting equipped with their own array of answers, from those calling for support of the ban to those calling for the city to give it a rest on localizing national issues.

“What would be appropriate is to have a discussion, in a different venue of course, on firearms and the Second Amendment,” suggested Claremont resident Douglas Lyon. “What is not appropriate is for a special interest pressure group to ask this council to adopt a constitution-hostile resolution, which would presume to speak for all of Claremont on the national issue, an issue over which this council has no jurisdiction.”

Others begged to differ.

“People here can get killed like in Newtown, Colorado, Utah, Arizona or anywhere else,” said Claremont resident Robert Smith.

The Claremont City Council adopted a set of best practices in 20XX to “refrain from taking a policy stance on all matters clearly unrelated to the local jurisdiction.” That practice has become muddled of late as residents question what is and is not the responsibility of local government. Over the past year, the council has adopted resolutions in favor of last election’s Prop 30, enabling a quarter-cent rise in sales tax over the next 4 years to provide funding to California’s public schools, as well as one in favor of fair banking practices.

Best practices were called into question once again with this latest resolution request. At the council’s Feb. 26 meeting residents came before the council in public comment to request a policy on gun control be adopted. At the same time, Mayor Larry Schroeder told the council that he had been asked to sign a position by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, but did not feel it was right for him to do so as mayor of Claremont until he received council approval.

After examining council policy, city administrators went ahead with suggesting the resolution in part because they believed City Manager Tony Ramos’s position on the Public Safety Committee for the League of California Cities put council within its right to adopt a supportive stance.

However, others feel the city needs to steer clear of such wide-sweeping issues like immigration and global warming and instead focus on important local matters, like concerns with Wilderness Park safety and overcrowding and the city’s continued fiscal health.

“Your real issues are local,” said Nick Quackenbos addressing the council. “Parks, trees, affordable housing, streets, good business climate.”

Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali and Corey Calaycay felt the city should not be voting for or against an issue that is clearly so divided in the community. Mayor Larry Schroeder and Joe Lyons voiced support on the matter. Mr. Pedroza will be in the hot seat next week as opinions voiced by council members at the meeting are as split as those of the audience.

—Beth Hartnett


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