On Monday, two men in their late 20s attempted to break into a home in Vallejo. They fled when the homeowner grabbed a firearm and shot at them, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald. Nothing was taken from the home and police are searching for the suspects.
Vallejo’s 115,000 residents have good reason to arm themselves. The year before this Bay Area city entered bankruptcy in May 2008, it had 145 police officers. Three years later, when it exited bankruptcy, there were just 91 officers left on the force, according to city-data.com. Perhaps not coincidentally, Vallejo suffers nearly double the rate of crime as the rest of the state and country.
Vallejo was also the scene of a lively 2½-hour gun control debate Wednesday night. It was sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena (pictured nearby), who was appointed by Nancy Pelosi to head the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
Thompson likes to tout his firearms bona fides: hunter, gun owner and a tour in Vietnam with an assault rifle. But the National Rifle Association doesn’t consider Thompson a gun rights supporter, scoring him just 17 percent on gun rights votes in 2012. There’s also not a lot of gun rights support on the rest of the task force — eight of its 12 members received scores of zero by the NRA.
As a result, it’s likely that the task force’s recommendations will be in line with liberal orthodoxy, similar to what the NRA experienced in its meeting with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday.
“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe, and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment,” said the NRA in a press release. “While claiming that no policy proposals would be ‘prejudged,’ this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”
Thompson’s task force will probably not recommend beefing up school security, as recommended by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who observed, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Thompson pretty much confirmed that in a press release response to the NRA:
“Everyone agrees our schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, streets and communities need to be safer. But we need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just arming more people with more guns to make this happen. Closing holes in our mental health system, addressing our culture’s glorification of violence, improving background checks for everyone who buys firearms, and reinstating the ban on assault weapons and assault magazines all must be part of a comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence.”
At the town hall meeting, Thompson reaffirmed his hostility to increasing security in schools and public venues. Tom Powell, a Vallejo businessman and gun owner, advocated ensuring that one or two teachers in classrooms along every school corridor should have weapons training and an ability to access a firearm if need be.
“Just like we have marshalls on airplanes to keep them from getting highjacked,” Powell said. “The kids don’t have to know who they are. If people know there’s one or two teachers in a hallway that have a weapon and can defend the kids, they might be deterred from doing what they are doing. You’re not going to take away guns. And these things are going to keep happening, because there are crazy people out there and it’s not going to stop. You have to arm the teachers, the ones that want to do it. They can be very well trained. And maybe that will stop a few problems.”
Thompson replied, “Isn’t that responding to the last tragedy? So what do you do next? If your theory is correct, then we would arm the popcorn vendor in the theater, we would arm the salespeople in the mall. And if there’s a shootout at the football game, then we would arm the referees. Where do you stop?”
Powell responded, “We should make it OK for real citizens to get a concealed permit so that more people are armed out there. So that [would-be killers] will worry about, ‘Well, that guy might have a gun. I might not do this because he might have one, and she might have one.’ I’m not saying everybody should have a gun. I’m saying if there’s a few out there it might help.”
Thompson ended the exchange, saying, “Just for the record, I wouldn’t go to the movie if I thought eight or 10 people in there had guns.”
Powell received strong applause for his remarks. Despite the meeting being in a Bay Area city, the standing-room-only crowd packed into the Vallejo City Council chambers was split about evenly between gun rights supporters and opponents.
Thompson attempted to play both sides in his opening remarks:
“I support the Second Amendment and want to make sure that lawful individuals with clear mental health background are able to own and use firearms today and want to make sure their children and grandchildren are able to do so in the out years. But gun owners must come forward and say enough is enough. We need to stem gun violence and do it in a comprehensive manner. It’s not just guns. Guns are a very small part of it. It’s mental health issues, the culture of violence, who gets these guns and providing appropriate background checks.
“We have a lot of work to do. It’s not an easy task. It won’t be a cheap task. I want to make sure everybody is at the table and every issue is at the table. That’s why we are having these town hall meetings. We need constructive input on how to deal with this. The Second Amendment is alive and well. This is not an issue about how Americans who are law abiding and mentally stable are going to lose their guns. This is about gun safety and what we can do.”
Despite that assurance, it’s unlikely that beefed up security in schools and public venues and making it easier for law-abiding citizens to obtain concealed-weapon carry permits will be among his task force’s recommendations.
Thompson’s task force plans to issue its recommendations in early February.
(Dave Roberts writes for CalWatchdog. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)