Category Archives: Gun control

VIDEO: Benicians gather in City Park, take a stand against hate

By Roger Straw, November 2, 2018

I hope to write up a short story about this important event when I get a few minutes.  Until then, MANY MANY thanks to all who showed up, to Rev. Dr. Mary Susan Gast for planning and leading the vigil, and to Dr. Constance Beutel, for this beautiful 20-minute video capturing much of the gathered spirit.  (Note that the first 5 or 10 seconds of this video are silent…)

    Benicians asked to stand against hate on Thursday, 11/1, City Park

    Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

    Benicians asked to stand against hate on Thursday

    By JOHN GLIDDEN, October 31, 2018 at 7:02 pm
    5:30 p.m. Thursday (TODAY!), City Park Gazebo, First Street & Military West

    BENICIA — A week after 13 people were violently killed in two separate shooting sprees, local residents have put together an impromptu gathering asking Benicians to stand against hate.

    The event begins at 5:30 p.m., Thursday near the City Park Gazebo, located along First Street and Military West.

    “Gather in solidarity, in song, in remembrance of those killed in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, in commitment to our common humanity,” according to an event flier.

    One of the organizers, the Rev. Mary Susan Gast said that Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson is scheduled to office words of encouragement, Poet Laureate Tom Stanton will present a poem, while the Mourner’s Kaddish, a traditional prayer for the dead, will be offered in Hebrew.

    “We will reflect on our unity as a nation and community of diversity,” she added.

    Two African Americans were shot and killed in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky on Oct. 24, which authorities are investigating as a hate crime.

    Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old Caucasian man, has been accused of killing Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Jones, 67, inside the Jeffersontown grocery store and outside the location, respectively.

    Bush allegedly, prior to the shooting, attempted to enter a predominantly black church but was unable to get inside.

    Then last Saturday, Robert Bowers entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue killing 11 people in one of the deadliest attack on Jewish individuals in U.S. history.

    Bowers was indicted Wednesday on 44 federal charges, including 11 counts for obstructing religious freedom resulting in death and 11 counts of committing violent crime using a firearm.

      Not what I expected: Mike Thompson on gun violence

      By Roger Straw
      U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson – Gun Violence Prevention Task Force  mikethompson.house.gov/issues/gun-violence-prevention

      An influential Benicia resident (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote to me on May 22, highly concerned over our Rep. Mike Thompson’s moderate statements on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force page on his website.  Her email subject line was “Not what I expected: Mike Thompson on gun violence.”  She wrote:

      Rep. Mike Thompson, District 5, has been chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the US House of Representative for several years. Here is his disturbing current statement on the Task Force site: note: there are links on the site about his gun prevention plans.  From his website…

      “As a hunter and gun owner I believe we should protect a law-abiding individual’s Second Amendment right to own firearms. As a dad and grandfather I also believe that we have a responsibility to make our schools, streets and communities safe. We can do both, but Congress will need to step up.

      After being named chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, I held a series of open town halls in our district that examined some of the actions that Congress could take. Hundreds attended these meetings. I heard views from law enforcement officials, mental health experts, school officials, NRA members and gun control advocates. Many feared that their Second Amendment rights would come under attack when my task force made its recommendations to Congress. Others wanted to cast those rights aside.

      I believe both views are too extreme. I will never give up my guns and I will never ask law-abiding Americans without a history of dangerous mental illness to give up theirs. Not only am I personally against this, the Constitution does not allow it. In District of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court affirmed once and for all that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms.

      However, just as the First Amendment protects free speech but doesn’t allow you to incite violence, the Second Amendment has restrictions too. As conservative justice Anthony Scalia outlined, Heller does not prohibit laws forbidding firearms in places such as schools, nor does it restrict laws prohibiting felons and the mentally ill from carrying guns.

      This ruling provides people on both sides of the issue with an opportunity to work within the confines of the Second Amendment and pass legislation that will reduce and prevent gun violence.”

      I wrote back, detailing Mike’s stated views on assault weapons: “After the Parkland FL school shooting in February … Mike held a Benicia town Hall on March 17, where he very clearly, more than once, stated that ‘military grade automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons do not belong in the hands of citizens.'” (See Mike Thompson makes news in Benicia: ‘military grade assault weapons do not belong in citizens’ hands’.)

      I wrote to Thompson’s staff, sharing our concern about the Gun Violence Prevention page on his website, and suggesting they update the page to show Mike’s evolving views on this subject.  “I hope you will pass this on to Mike and make an effort to update the website, calling for new and more stringent controls on guns, with special attention to military grade automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons.”

      I heard back that same day with a promise to pass our concern on to Mike’s communications director in Washington D.C., Alex Macfarlane.

      As of today, there have been no updates on Mike’s Gun Violence Prevention page.  Similarly, I can find no mention of assault weapons or automatic / semi-automatic weapons on Thompson’s Facebook page.  I hope to hear from his office about changes, and will report here with updates.

      Contact Rep. Mike Thompson – ask him what is his position on banning military grade automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons:

      Roger Straw
      Benicia