By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Gun-control advocates failed this week to convince the Windsor Town Council to support a federal ban on assault weapons when a majority of council members abstained from voting on the matter.
Windsor so far is the only municipality in Sonoma County to break ranks on the issue. Seven cities have endorsed a ban while Rohnert Park is yet to take up the issue.
“Their constituents have a right to know where they stand on this,” Susan Moore, president of the Sonoma County Brady Campaign said Thursday. “This to me is very cowardly.”
Two council members favored a resolution endorsing a national ban on the sale of military-style weapons and large-capacity bullet magazines, but without enough votes for council action, it died.
A majority of council members essentially said it’s not appropriate to be taking up a national issue that can divert staff time and result in a symbolic gesture.
“This job is for community and local issues — water, sewer, garbage, roads, infrastructure, parks, seniors,” said Councilman Bruce Okrepkie, who abstained from voting along with council members Steve Allen and Robin Goble.
Only council members Debora Fudge and Sam Salmon voted in favor of backing the reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban proposed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Ca.
The two council members also expressed support for legislation proposed by Congressman Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, to extend background checks to all gun sales, including guns sold at shows and through the Internet.
Fudge, who proposed the council vote on the issue, said “local government can be the voice of the people … especially when sending messages up to the state and federal government.”
“This is the place where people can do that. That’s why I think it’s very appropriate,” said Fudge.
“This goes to the protection of the residents in the future and law enforcement officers,” Salmon said.
The three council members did not explain why they chose to abstain and not simply vote no, Moore said, adding that an abstention usually reflects a conflict of interest.
But last month Mayor Goble said she would abstain because “I think we have absolutely no business weighing in on federal matters.”
“I don’t know how the constituents of Windsor feel about these things because I don’t engage with them on those,” she said.
In a more wide ranging discussion later Wednesday night on how controversial topics such as gun control should be placed on the agenda, Allen said it’s a “waste of time,” and “seems to me to be an abuse of Windsor taxpayer money.”
The council heard from half dozen speakers on the topic of gun control, most of whom urged the council to take a stand in favor of an assault weapons ban. Two speakers were opposed, including Windsor resident Wayne Gifford who cited the Second Amendment: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Councilman Okrepkie seemed especially conflicted prior to abstaining, saying he was unhappy that it was on the agenda.
In impassioned comments, he said he was torn because of the ”horrific, hideous … sick” act that led to the fatal shootings last December of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
He spoke of violence on television, video games and other media and said “the real problem is mental health” and sick delusional people with access to firearms.
Okrepkie said gun control advocates were asking Feinstein to amend the Constitution and the right to bear arms.
But Moore disagreed.
“It’s to get legislation for sensible gun laws. We’re certainly not encroaching on the Second Amendment,” she said. “We don’t need our citizens armed with military weapons.”
(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)