Local Congressman addresses gun violence at roundtable discussion

Photos by Lance Armstrong - U.S. Rep. Ami Bera meets Esther Quintero following his roundtable discussion at American River College. Quintero works with youth through the Roberts Family Development Center Organization.

U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) on July 1 held a private, roundtable discussion about gun violence.

The meeting, which was held at American River College (ARC), was called by Bera for the purpose of continuing the public conversation on gun safety. Last month, he spoke at the 26-hour sit-in on the House floor following the Orlando club shooting that left 49 dead and 53 injured.

The sit-in was staged by Democrats to demand a vote on bipartisan legislation to address gun violence.

Guests at the July 1 roundtable discussion included Sacramento City Council Member Steve Hansen, Sacramento Violence Intervention Program Coordinator DeAngelo Mack, Anoosh Jorjorian, Sara Keeler and Lisa Nowell of Moms Demand Action, and Rev. Alan Jones of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento.

Although the discussion was closed to the media, Bera met with the Citizen afterward.

 “The point today was to try to bring folks in the room and kind of get (a) consensus on what do we want to do (about gun violence in the community), and have an open conversation, let folks brainstorm,” he said.

Bera emphasized that the roundtable discussion would not be the last of its kind, and that he plans to include other community representatives such as educators, parents, law enforcement and victims of violence in similar future meetings.

“This is the start of the conversation, not the end of the conversation,” he said.

After mentioning his concerns about the tragedies of Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and Orlando, Bera stated that it is important to him to continue to hold local roundtable discussions to have “responsible discussions.”

“In my mind, this isn’t about the Second Amendment,” he said. “The vast majority of gun owners are responsible gun owners. I think the vast majority of gun owners want to say, ‘How do we keep our community safe, how do we keep guns out of the hands of felons and terrorists and the gangs and stuff?’

“Let’s have responsible conversation. We may not be able to change it in Washington, D.C., but let’s do what we can here in the Sacramento community.”

Bera added that it is important to maintain an open dialogue in the meetings.

“My job, kind of moving this conversation forward, is not to preach to those here’s what we need to do, but rather to say, ‘Ok, what do we do?’ he said. “Because all of us agree, whether you’re a gun owner or not a gun owner, none of us want to see these senseless deaths. So, how do we prevent those deaths?”

Bera noted that the discussion was not directed at any legislation or politics, but was directed solely as a conversation regarding community safety, and efforts to “prevent the next tragedy.”

“We’re all sick and tired of our kids being afraid and the public being afraid, and we want to take our community back,” he said.

Jorjorian said that with Moms Demand Action’s support of the House sit-in, representatives of that organization were “glad to participate” in the roundtable discussion.

 “What came through clearly in the roundtable is how passionately everyone feels about gun violence,” she said. “We want it to stop. We want our families and our communities to feel safe. We’re united in our determination to channel this passion into real change, not just in laws, but in a culture of fear that feeds gun violence.

“We know that the struggle to end gun violence is a marathon, not a sprint. This meeting was a first step to bring together communities directly affected by gun violence to discuss our experiences and plan the path forward.”

Bera said that path will soon continue with a second meeting.

“I think this is a start,” he said. “We’ve committed to coming back in the next couple of weeks to keep this conversation moving forward.”