County residents’ reaction to Obama gun proposals mixed

Reactions to sweeping gun control proposals made by President Barack Obama on Wednesday were as mixed locally as there were nationally.

Gun control advocates in Washington praised Obama. Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington Cease Fire in Seattle, said that he was excited by Obama’s proposals.

“I thought it was really bold,” he said. It was comprehensive.”

Universal background checks before a gun could be purchased would be a big first step, Fascitelli said.

Scott Smith, a member of a Whidbey Island gun club, said he’s opposed to cutting off the sale of assault rifles and limiting the size of ammunition magazines, steps included in Obama’s gun plan.

“It’s not going to help, not in my opinion it won’t,” he said.

People already own hundreds of thousands of assault weapons, he said. “You’re trying to put a cork in something after it’s already gone.”

Smith said he, too, has thought about what could be done to stop events like last month’s killing of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut.

“I’d love to do something,” he said, “but what I’d like to know is would it do something positive?”

Smith said he doesn’t know what steps could be taken to effectively curb gun violence.

“Honestly, I’ve thrown my hands up,” he said. “There’s not much of an answer. There are 65 million gun owners who use their guns correctly. Once in a while someone uses theirs incorrectly. You tell me how to weed out that one person.”

Freshman U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., issued a statement calling the president’s proposals a serious attempt to address many issues, including illegal firearms, school safety, treating mental illness and enforcing our existing laws.

Congress needs to craft responsible legislation “that both respects the Second Amendment and helps address the violence and number of gun-related deaths in our country,” she said.

Joe Waldron, legislative chairman for Washington Arms Collectors, was attending a hunting and gun trade show in Las Vegas on the day Obama’s gun plan was announced.

“Some of the things he had to say are potentially good things,” he said. “There are some things we’ll fight tooth and nail.”

Like Smith, Waldron said he objects to the proposed assault weapon ban and limiting the size of ammunition magazines.

Waldron said that 10 years ago, his group lobbied in Olympia in favor of background checks prior to gun sales in Washington if the results weren’t kept on file, but the proposal was never approved.

Smith said he would like to find some way to have more comprehensive background checks to spot people with criminal records or a history of serious mental illness.

But even a proposal involving limits on gun purchases by people with mental health issues raises its own questions.

“I’m not a mental health professional,” Waldron said. “I’m not comfortable on where to draw the line and determine if there’s adequate safeguards.”

Reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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