By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Straying from its usual practice of sticking to local issues, the Healdsburg City Council on Monday adopted a resolution supporting the reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban.
The City Council, on a 4-1 vote, resolved to support a law proposed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca., which would ban military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition bullet magazines.
Healdsburg became the seventh city in the county to come out in favor of Feinstein’s bill, with only Windsor and Rohnert Park yet to take up the issue.
Although all of the Healdsburg council members said they favored the assault weapons ban, there was strong dissent from Councilman Gary Plass, who said the national topic doesn’t belong in front of the council.
“We were hired to keep the water running and the sewer going and that’s what we should do,’ he said. “It does not belong on this dais.”
But Councilman Jim Wood said, “If there’s anything we can do from this dais to prevent senseless acts of violence, we will regret not doing it.”
He said the communities of Aurora, Colo., and Newton, Conn. — sites of recent horrific mass killings committed by gunmen with assault weapons — did not anticipate mass violence.
“Maybe we are on a slippery slope,” Wood said of the council’s willingness to take on matters that appear to be outside the council’s authority. “But there are times when (issues) that appear federal in nature do impact our lives in Healdsburg.”
Mayor Susan Jones also said it was important to support the weapons ban because the federal government takes direction from state and local governments.
“It needs to come from the bottom up,” she said.
Also on Monday the council agreed, over the objections of Plass, to write a letter supporting a bill by State Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, that would require a one-time background check of ammunition buyers to ensure bullets are not being sold to dangerous criminals.
Only three people addressed the council on the topic of gun control Monday, including Susan Moore, president of the Brady Campaign of Sonoma County, which is seeking support for the federal military-style assault weapons ban from of all of Sonoma County’s nine cities and the county Board of Supervisors.
Of the two Healdsburg residents who spoke one was in favor of the assault weapons ban and another was against it.
The resolution approved by Healdsburg includes language stating “weapons of war do not belong in our streets, in our theaters, shopping malls and most of all our schools.”
“This has nothing to do with Second Amendment rights,” said Moore. Instead she told the council it is about doing everything possible to prevent mass violence and curtailing “the possibility of one of these episodes occurring in Sonoma County.”
Feinstein is seeking to renew and broaden the 1994 ban she authored on the sale of military style weapons and large capacity bullet magazines that expired in 2004.
Gun control advocates say that since the federal ban expired nine years ago, assault weapons have been used in more than 450 incidents, resulting in 385 deaths and 455 injuries.
Healdsburg’s resolution notes that possession of assault weapons is outlawed in California, but the lack of a federal ban undercuts the effectiveness of the state law.
The Brady Campaign in Sonoma County began reaching out to cities following the fatal shootings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., in December.
The Windsor Town Council is set to take up the topic on Wednesday. Moore said Rohnert Park is the last city that will be asked to endorse the ban. She said she expects the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will also support it.
In a few of the cities that have supported the Feinstein legislation there have dissenting council members reluctant to wade into what they see as a national debate.
Plass has been especially skeptical of his fellow council members willingness to a stand on such issues, saying it’s symbolic and a big waste of time when the council should be focused on issues over which it has direct jurisdiction.
Healdsburg Councilman Shaun McCaffery also was against taking up the issue, but he said once a majority of the council brought it forward, he felt obliged to express his support for the ban on assault weapons.
Plass also had expressed concern in February when the council decided to side with advocates for same-sex marriage and support a legal challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court against the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Act, which recognized only marriage between a man and a woman, ended up being struck down in June by the Supreme Court.
Plass said he did not disagree with those supporting same sex marriage, but warned his colleagues that it would open the door to a variety of issues coming before the council presented by political parties on the left and the right.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org