A resolution meant to address gun violence divided Chula Vista’s City Council after one member asked that factual statements about the number of gun deaths be removed from the resolution.
Councilwoman Pat Aguilar introduced a resolution last week calling for state and local officials to enforce existing gun safety laws, for increased state and federal funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and to encourage a public health approach to gun violence prevention.
Councilman Mike Diaz supported the three objectives, but asked to remove two sentences in the “Whereas” section of the resolution.
The first sentence stated, “Whereas, in the U.S., individuals with guns injure more than 100,000 people a year, and kill more than 30,000 a year, through homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths.”
The second was, “Whereas, far more Americans have been killed with guns in the U.S. than have died in all our wars combined.”
Diaz thought those sentences painted an unfair picture of gun violence in the U.S. He cited FBI data to point out that in California more people are killed by “hand, fist and foot” than by rifles. Diaz cited FBI data when saying that about half of gun deaths in the state are from suicide.
“I think there’s a lot of data there, at least in California, that shows that the level isn’t as high as some folks would say,” Diaz said. “Not that one death is acceptable. We always need to continue to work.”
Councilman Stephen Padilla took issue with Daiz’s request to remove factual statements from the resolution and his reasoning for doing so.
“With great deference to my friend and colleague, Mr. Diaz, you will find no surprise that I vehemently disagree with just about everything that you said,” Padilla said.
Padilla, who was a police officer for 13 years, said gun violence is a mental health, public safety, and cultural issue that needs to be addressed from every possible angle.
He argued that Aguilar’s resolution did not go far enough to prevent gun violence. Specifically, Padilla would have liked to see it calling for a federal ban on assault weapons and to close “loopholes” in state laws that allow people to buy guns from private dealers in gun shows without a background check.
“This isn’t about the Second Amendment,” he said. “It’s not about impinging on people’s right to self-defense, protecting their homes or their loved ones, or hunting. This is about common sense and it is an epidemic.”
Mayor Mary Casillas Salas also took issue with Diaz’s statements, suggesting they downplay the gravity of gun violence.
“It seems to me that if you’re saying that because more people could possibly be killed by somebody beating them up or choking them without a gun that absolves the issue of guns from being the number one problem,” she said.
Salas did not agree with Diaz’s reasoning for removing the two sentences from the resolution.
“You’re removing a fact from a resolution to weaken it and you’re really promoting more misinformation that goes out to the public,” she told Diaz. “That is not something I’m willing to support.”
Councilman John McCann supported Diaz’s amendment to remove the two sentences.
Aguilar, who introduced the motion, said she understood Padilla and Salas’ opposition, but saw this as an opportunity to compromise with the two conservative council members.
“I know that there’s a time to be bold and be assertive and take aggressive action,” she said. “But I think there are times that need to be balanced with consideration for the views of colleagues and compromise.”
The resolution passed with a 3-2 vote. Padilla and Salas voted against it.