Shippensburg Borough Council member encourages lawmakers to discuss gun control
By AMBER SOUTH
A Shippensburg Borough Council member has written a letter in response to the Newtown, Conn. school shooting tragedy that he hopes will help motivate state and federal legislators to talk about gun control.
Joe Hockersmith, East Ward, said Monday he has e-mailed the completed letter to his fellow council members and the borough manager for review, and hopes to see an item for approval to send the letter to state and federal legislators on the agenda for the next council meeting Jan. 3.
But even in the chance that council chooses not to send the letter, Hockersmith said he will send the letter himself. In either occasion, he would like to send a mass-mailing to lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett.
Hockersmith told council of his quest at the Dec. 18 meeting. He agreed to Council President Andrea Lage’s request that he draft a letter that council can later review.
“If we fail to at least try we’re not doing due diligence as local leaders,” he said at that meeting.
As a gun owner, life-long hunter and military veteran, Hockersmith understands the argument for guns. However, as a grandfather of three who saw, with the rest of the country, the aftermath of a gunman’s rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults Dec. 14, he feels it is his duty as a municipal representative to promote dialogue on gun control among lawmakers.
“Obviously it was a horrible event and was one of many that don’t just seem to be going away,” Hockersmith said. “I really just think it’s time for that dialogue.”
Hockersmith is also a former member of the National Rifle Association, of which CEO Wayne LaPierre on Friday called for armed police to be stationed at every school in America when students come back from the holidays, in response to the Newtown shooting.
The organization’s stance in past situations persuaded Hockersmith to exit the group. In particular, Hockersmtih chose not to renew his membership following the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 in Columbine, Colo., because he was displeased with what he said was NRA’s unwillingness to have an open discussion on gun control.
The gun control debate goes deeper than Sandy Hook and other school shootings, Hockersmith said. According to him, there are 30,000 deaths each year due to guns. A study by the Violence Policy Center shows that approximate number has held for at least the last decade.
Included in that number are eight youth a day, or a number about equal to two classrooms a week, Hockersmith said.
“We are just failing the country if we don’t do this,” he said.
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.