Shippensburg Borough Council to encourage lawmakers to have discussion on gun control
By AMBER SOUTH
SHIPPENSBURG — Shippensburg Borough Council voted 4-1 Thursday to send a letter to state and federal legislators encouraging them to discuss gun control.
Council member Joe Hockersmith presented the idea at the council meeting Dec. 18 in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14.
The letter Hockersmith drafted notes that even if the Sandy Hook shooting did not happen, “it is well past the time for discussion and action…”
It asks that any discussion use a holistic approach, with conversations on “mental health, poverty, drugs, and a host of other life issues that add to exacerbate our national gun problem.” The letter also lists an array of statistics related to gun deaths.
With the idea that such a tragedy could happen again if no action is taken, and acknowledgment that it could have been Shippensburg or any other neighboring town, most of council supported the letter’s goal.
Kerri Burrows said although she and her husband are very pro-Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, she sees it as her duty to recognize that her personal views may not reflect those of her constituents.
“If there’s anything I can do to maybe, by a minuscule of a chance, to prevent a child dying in an elementary school, I will do anything in my power,” she said.
While in church recently after the tragedy, Hockersmith said he teared up while watching the children’s choir.
“If that (Sandy Hook) was Shippensburg, how many of those children would be gone today?” he questioned.
A gun owner throughout his life, Hockersmith’s motivation behind the letter goes back well over a decade. He was a member of the National Rifle Association until the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999, but left the group because he felt the NRA’s response to the tragedy showed it would always promote fire arms of all kinds.
“What I’m trying to say in this letter is we all have perspectives. We all know what the Second Amendment says,” Hockersmith said. “I’m not saying ban guns. I’m saying have a reasonable discussion.”
Council member Steve Brenize voted against sending the letter.
“I can not support it not because I don’t believe in the cause, but because I don’t believe what this letter’s asking for will take place when it reaches where it goes.”
While he respected Brenize’s opinion, Hockersmith said council would go against its pledge to best serve the public’s welfare and safety if it did not at least try to promote gun control discussion.
Going off of a comment made by resident Bill Lape earlier in the meeting, Hockersmith said, “…these things have to start from the bottom up or Washington (D.C.) doesn’t recognize it, Harrisburg doesn’t recognize it.”
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.