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San Diego Groups Debate Stricter Gun Control Laws

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November 3, 2015 1:07 p.m.

San Diego Groups Debate Stricter Gun Control Laws

GUESTS:

Michael Schwartz, executive director, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC

Ron Marcus, member, San Diego Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Related Story: San Diego Groups Debate Stricter Gun Control Laws

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Lieutenant. Governor. Gavin Newsom to demagogue the last month of the issue of gun control. He introduced a proposed ballot measure that would, among other things, require background checks on ammunition purchases and require California gun owners to develop large capacity magazines. Gun rights advocates are stepping up to the challenge and fighting back. Going to defeat any such initiative. A recently formed political action committee in San Diego says it will speak out to defend the rights of San Diego gunowners. All this happening against the backdrop of repeated mass shootings across America and an American public getting increasingly uncomfortable about the issue of continuing and violence. Joining me is Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego County gun owners PAC. The program Michael.
Thank you for having me.
Ron Marcus is also joining us. He is with the San Diego chapter of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence. Welcome to the program run.
Thank you Maureen.
Michael, for quite some time San Diego has not had an organized pro-gun rights organization. Why has this group forms now.
That is the question. We formed because we saw a need on the local level. There is a lot of Apple could see at the federal level and in Sacramento at the state level. We found a need at the local level for people to be involved. There are 18 city councils and the County Board of Supervisors. There is a share. I appreciate having me on with Ron and I think this is going to be great. But if it before we go any further what I would really like to do is to have everyone agree that all sides of this issue -- we have to agree that we care about public safety and we care about people's lives. Would you both agree with that?
I think that we all agree with that. This is an issue that brings out a lot of passion among people. Let me ask you Michael. What you believe of the strongest arguments against new gun-control laws?
Again, if we agree the public safety and people's lives are important to all sides, including I wanted the Brady organization. Really what it was down to is how we go about that. I think the other side of the issue feels that by disarming people, and unarmed victim is better off than on the victim. So if we both agree public safely and people's lives are most important and we really have to debate only the best way to protect people's lives and achieve public safety. I believe the West they do that is to make sure that people have the choice to carry the tool that will defend their lives. I think I have a strong case to make. An armed victim is far better off than an unarmed victim.
So one of the strongest arguments is apparently that people should retain the choice of whether to on themselves are not in order not to become a victim?
Correct. The big difference is we want people to have that choice. By further chipping away at people's liberty and the rights to keep and bear arms, you are basically taken with that choice. We're not saying everyone should choose to have a gun or carry a gun. We're saying they should have the choice. If they are saying. If they are trained. They are law-abiding than they should have the choice to protect themselves or their family and their homes.
We do this a lot Michael. How much do you think the resistance to the stricter gun laws is about the fear that the government is going to take away guns from citizens?
I cannot quantify how much that is but -- I don't know if anyone truly believes the government when they knock on your own store and take the guns away.
All yes there are people who believe that.
Part of that is because we have had elected officials and high levels saying that is something that was a possibility. But I don't think anyone is actually preparing for that. However, when you chip away at people's rights, the right to keep and bear arms. When you been owned firearms in certain types of ammunition or ammunition altogether. When you chip away at their rights it is encompassing the same thing it just takes a little longer. If someone that does not only do now is unable to get a gun later, it doesn't really matter if you're knocking door-to-door. It just matters people are unable to have that choice to keep and bear arms so they can protect themselves.
No one, California already has some of the toughest bands. A ban on large capacity ammunition magazines. Help of the two levels of than?
That's a great question. California has one of the lower gun rates in the country in terms of how well the state is doing compared to the rest of the nation, in terms of strictness of gun law is second only to Connecticut. This is logical sense Connecticut is where the new town shooting occurred and they have the biggest change when that happened. California is one of the safest places in the country at the moment. That does not mean it is necessarily the top say this but it is one of the safest places. One of the issues is that even with the more strict gun laws in California is still relatively easy to go interstate such as Nevada or Arizona, and get a gun and come back to California. That is one of the areas of concerns that would like to try to address in a sensible way.
On, you know even some and control advocates are concerned that the proposal by Gavin Newsom might be too ambitious because it does include requiring some people to give up their guns which is sort of like playing into the hands of the worst fears of the gun rights advocates position. What is your take on that?
I respect his position as well. This is a very emotional issue on both sides are very good reason. I do agree we all have the ultimate same goal and that is the best public safety possible. I think one has to look at the very politically charged environment, try to propose the most sensible collection of regulations that everyone can feel comfortable with. And did without necessarily speaking directly for Brady Keifer asking my take on this, it's possible that certainly what he is proposing is going to sound rather incendiary to gun rights activists. One has to ask if the lieutenant governor this is presenting things in a way that will allow us to reach a consensus. We want to do some consensusbuilding because we are all trying to the same goal of public safety.
Michael, in terms of public safety, and you're saying the choice of being able to arm yourself and to be an armed person and perhaps not be a victim in that way according to what you're saying. Is there any kind of change to our gun policy rules that you would see look at and say yes, that would probably make people a little more safer?
Yes. Absolutely there are some changes we can make. There are two groups of people committing the majority of gun crime. If the removed those two groups of people somehow and stop them from committing gun crimes, our statistics in America, is first gun crime goes, we would be comparable to a country like Elgin. Those two groups are repeat offenders and the mentally unstable. Newsom's proposal does not do anything to address those. In fact, most new gun proposals don't really do much to address those two groups -- the repeat offenders and mentally unstable. Nobody on any side of this debate wants to make sure that repeat offenders and unstable people are armed. Chicago has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation and there are hundreds of murders every year by repeat offenders who obtain guns illegally. Just this week one was actually stopped by a CCW holder, concealed weapons permit holder. It was a convenient store being rocked by a repeat offender who went in with a gun he obtained illegally. He threatened the lives of people in the store and someone with a concealed weapon was able to stop that crime. I would like to see all the stories that we read about people being murdered by guns, by repeat offenders and mentally unstable -- I would like to see those stories turning to stories of people who defended their life and the lives of others and were able to stop that crime before it became any more heinous.
Let me just mention though that the universal background checks installed in Congress would indeed look for a background of mental illness or felony. It would look for that in someone who wanted to purchase a gun in any format, whether from someone that they know or at a gun show. So it would expand background checks. Governor. Newsom's proposal would ask for people who have been convicted of a felony, a gun felony or someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness to turn in any weapons they have. There are two aspects there that would address the very concerned you have.
After new town when they were talking about universal background checks there were no specifics. There was an amount of money they talked about but no specifics. Most of the national gun groups came out and said we're not really addressing the two groups that I mentioned repeat offenders and mentally unstable. Were not truly addressing them. They are not being prosecuted. The mentally ill -- there's nothing about them in the background checks currently. Until it is fixed we're not going to support expanding some kind of broken system. When that hit the headlines it was the NRA doesn't like background checks. None of that was true. What they said was this is a broken system. We need a real proposal to expand it before we support anything. That's what ended up stalling. Like I said the background checks are truly crucial to stop the mentally ill and repeat offenders. We have all of the laws of on the books Grilli to stop repeat offenders. We can rest repeat offenders right now with guns. We don't need a more laws. And I think when you look at polls about 58% of people have a positive outlook or opinion of the NRA. It's not that they don't want more gun laws. It's not that simple. What they don't want is more gun laws that are ineffective. That is what is happening. There are too many -- none of these proposal by the governor are going to be more effective. It's just a way to raise his name so he can run for governor. That type of political gameplaying has no purpose and does not help at all when talking about public safety.
I am correct about those universal background checks. It does include people mentally ill is that not right?
As long as they are in the system are in. That's part of the challenge. It's a lot easier to stem the tide and flow of guns than it is to locate, diagnose and properly restrict mentally ill folks. The thing with repeat offenders again, Governor. Newsom's proposal does exactly what you said and when it tries to restrict that. At the same time it seems like almost any proposal of any sort to advance gun regulations at all have been vociferously pushed back by organizations such as the NRA. So they really haven't been given a chance to prove or disprove their effectiveness. I think what we're trying to do is find the strike and the balance for preserving response will gun owners rights while doing everything we possibly can to restrict the flow of guns to illegal holders and users. That's the answer to that.
Michael do you want to respond to that?
Yes. I think that's part of the issue or part of the problem. Like you said, Ron, the other side is trying to advance more gun regulations rather than having the goal of trying to effect the public safety. That's kind of where our site is really more pragmatic about the issue. We're trying to make sure people are safe and have the choice and can protect themselves if they want. Our goal is not less gun laws. Not necessarily. Our goal is to protect the public. It stands to statistics and scrutiny that when people have the choice to keep and bear arms, when they are able to do that, it does benefit public safety. In order to do that we need to reevaluate some of the very stricter gun laws that we have. I think we have different goals that is not really productive when it comes to public safety.
To be clear though, even though you're not advocating or saying you are against all gun laws there are no gun was pending you support?
Let me give an example. We talked about if you do not enforce the laws than they are just simply ineffective. We have all the laws on the books. We need to stop the people from committing crimes.
Then why does gun crime not stop?
I think it was appalled at the numbers from 1993 to 2013 and showed that homicide fell from seven in every 100,000 to 3.6 in every 100 S. in. I was basically cut in half. During that same period concealed weapon holders went from 4.6 million to 12.8 million. So it almost tripled in that same period. Homicides dropped. The amount of people bearing arms went up and the gun ownership went from from about four firearms per firearm owner to about eight. So it double. More people were bearing arms and keeping arms and homicide actually drop. But if you look at where the mass murders like up in Santa Barbara when he stabbed some people and then shots of people. That guy was mentally unstable. His family ran that flag went up the pole. He said hey this guy needs to be investigated. The sheriff department came to his apartment. Under Penal Code 51.50 they could have and should have taken him and put him in the legal process so that he did not have access to his firearms anymore. So his family and the law and everything could have prevented what happened. Instead they didn't enforce the law they said he looks like a nice guy and walked away. Huge mistake. If we do not enforce these laws it does not matter if we pass 100 or 1000 of them. If they are not enforce their completely useless. All it is doing is chipping away at honest law-abiding sane people who have the right to keep and bear arms to protect themselves.
You know Ron, recent polls have shown that about 90% of the American public support universal background checks. That law got stalled in Congress. The NRA and gun rights supporters have shown they can get a lot of people out to vote on a single issue being anti-gun-control legislation. Can pro-gun control forces politically be able to mobilize voters on this new gun-control initiative in California?
The new initiative is a more stronger initiative than what we had been trying to pass federal in Congress. It is hard to speculate on just what is going to happen in the coming months when it comes to bear. It is certainly a hot topic because of the recent shootings. It's definitely in the limelight. There will be a lot of heated debate on that. Going to federal Congress right now -- not to say that the others in saying -- but in terms of wanting to plug any gaps the private sales, Internet sales and gun shows where upwards of 40% of gun sales can happen without a background check. So trying to finish the job it started some 20 years ago to have a truly gapless universal federal background checks for guns with no exception. If we can get that done at a minimum we will have made some great progress towards getting Brady started back in the 90s.
Michael my final question to you is how do you plan to work against this package of gun-control laws if he gets on the ballot next year?
The report and thing is educating people. Every aspect of his ballot measure went through the legislature in Sacramento and was voted down the legislators who seemed very open to restrictive gun laws. They were all deemed to be way too bulky, way too expensive. There was a problem with each and every step. I don't think were going to have a big problem convincing people. The representatives of freedom job force.
I have been speaking with Michael Schwartz Executive Director the San Diego County gun owners PAC and Ron Marcus of the San Diego protector of the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence. Thank you both.
Thank you.
Thank you so much.