Locals react to Obama's gun control proposals

bmorem@thetribunenews.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Peter Keith, former mayor of Grover Beach who owns a number of rifles and handguns, doesn’t agree with President Barack Obama’s multipronged gun control proposals.

He uses his weapons for a little hunting, to keep his Huasna Valley ranch clear of ground squirrels and for practice.

But the overriding reason he owns weapons, he said, is because “we live out in the country, we live a half-hour out of Grover and that can be a critical length of time for a sheriff to get out here in the event one is needed. And if the world’s going to hell in a hand basket,” he added, “I want to be able to protect my family.”

Keith’s view represents one side of a debate that is being held across San Luis Obispo County, much as it is in Washington, D.C.

Others locally support Obama’s measures and think guns need to be more controlled.

Keith stressed that he is not a survivalist.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody, but the world can be gruesome and I will not surrender to it. I haven’t been a member of the NRA in 30 years, but I’m signing up next week for a lifetime membership.

“What’s happened to this country is a tragedy, all of these mass murders. I’m just not going to be a victim; I know how to use weapons.”

Betsy Ehler, a South County schoolteacher, has a different take on America’s gun culture.

“I’m against the crazy use of guns, although I think hunting is fine, as is self-protection. I think assault weapons aren’t necessary in our society. What happens with the gun lobby (when gun control is raised) is that they start waving the flag and 2nd Amendment rights to carry a gun.

“The right to live trumps the Second Amendment,” she added. “As a teacher, I’m constantly worried that someone may come in here and try to hurt them (her students) and that’s no way to live.”

Floyd Lewelling, a county native who currently lives in Atascadero, has been a lifetime hunter and keeps a variety of weapons for that purpose. Yet, like many gun owners, he’s concerned about the safety of his family and friends in the event of a natural disaster and subsequent societal crash.

“If we see a natural disaster, such as an earthquake in either Southern or Northern California, where do you think armed gangs are going to go? Do we want to be unarmed when they arrive?”

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, reiterated in a statement her support for many of the president’s proposals.

“I already support ... universal background checks, banning military-style assault weapons, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that allow a gunman to fire dozens of rounds in less than a minute, and strengthening gun trafficking laws will help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Former fire chief of Orcutt, Kirk Mang, believes the answer to curbing gun violence lies within the bonds of the family unit.

“In my opinion, Obama and Democrats need to be looking at other causations, because we’ve tried gun control before,” he said.

“Sandy Hook would have happened no matter how many guns are out there. We have to turn the clock back and look at what’s going on with families.”

Fred Seaman, overseer of the San Luis Obispo Sportsman’s Association range on Highway 1, agrees to a similar degree.

“Enforce the laws that are already on the books. You can’t legislate crazy to save others. Look at that kid who killed his mother to get her guns,” he said.

“How about the crimes in Chinese schools where kids were killed with knives, or Rwanda where machetes were used? Should we outlaw knives? Machetes? Hammers? Vehicles, because they kill thousands annually? (Obama’s proposals) could be a slippery slope toward confiscation” of firearms.

Mang sees value in the deterrence of being armed: “My daughter teaches 5th grade in the (San Joaquin) Valley where two armed parents of the kids have volunteered to guard the school.

“What a bad guy with a gun doesn’t want to meet up with is a good guy with a gun.”

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