Congressman Derek Kilmer is taking a wait-and-listen approach as debate continues over a proposed restart of the federal ban on assault weapons and a companion ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.
So far, Kilmer, a 6th District Democrat, has not said if he supports either enhanced restrictions on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons or a ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds.
The assault weapons and ammunition clip ban has generated much interest on Bainbridge Island in the weeks following the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders were killed by a gunman with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity ammunition clips.
The Bainbridge Island City Council voted 5-1 to approve a resolution at its meeting on Jan. 23 that supported a reinstatement of the federal ban an assault weapons, a ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds, and mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales.
The measures proposed in the Bainbridge resolution echo recommendations made by President Obama for increased gun control measures in the month following the Sandy Hook shooting.
The city emailed its resolution to Kilmer, Gov. Jay Inslee and 23rd District lawmakers Wednesday morning.
In responses to constituent letters and comments provided to the Bainbridge Island Review, Kilmer stressed his support Second Amendment gun rights and said he hoped Congress would come to a bipartisan solution on the issue.
“My response to the tragedy in Newtown was not as a policymaker, but as a dad. When my wife and I drop our kids off at school, we want them filled with hope about the day ahead – not with fears for their safety. Congress can and should find effective, bipartisan solutions to keep kids safe," Kilmer said.
“I support the Second Amendment and believe law-abiding Americans should have the right to own and buy guns whether for hunting, sport shooting or self-defense.
“The president's proposal is a serious effort to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing violence," Kilmer said. "We can improve public safety while respecting people’s rights through common sense steps like improving school safety and mental health services, strengthening law enforcement, and enhancing background checks so dangerous weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands. I’ll be listening to law enforcement groups, teachers, families, gun owners and mental health professionals in our region while we learn more about the president’s proposals and while Congress develops proposals of its own.”
Kilmer's staff said Tuesday the gun issue had prompted the largest amount of constituent input the new congressman has received since he took office in January.
Kilmer will no doubt hear from even more constituents in the weeks ahead. A group of parents on Bainbridge Island has created a Facebook page, SpeakUpKitsap, to demand for stronger gun laws.
The group has also started an online petition that they plan to present to the congressman.
The petition states:
"We, the voters of District 6 in Washington state, strongly urge you take action to curb the gun violence plaguing this nation. Support President Obama's proposal for new gun regulations that would 1) ban new sales of military-grade assault weapons, 2) cap magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets, and 3) make background checks universal to close gun show and private sale loopholes."
A link to the petition can be found on SpeakUpKitsap's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SpeakUpKitsap/info.
More than 1,020 signatures from people in Kitsap County and beyond have signed the petition through Wednesday morning.
Some of the messages on the petition addressed Kilmer directly, and some said his response so far to requests for stricter gun laws has been inadequate.
"We need sensible gun laws," wrote Laura Walker of Silverdale. "There have been over 1,400 gun deaths since the massacre in Newtown. There have been three school shootings. Military style assault weapons and extended clips/magazines must be outlawed and universal background checks must be law. Please - as our congressman - support these commonsense measures."
"The NRA is not the voice of America," wrote Lara Hansen of Seattle. "America has spoken, we are sick of the shootings of our neighbors and families. We want our legislators to stand up to the gun industry bullies, take our country back, and make us the peaceful society our constitution promised. Derek, do the right thing for your family and your friends. You don't need to do the gun lobby's bidding."