VALPARAISO — The City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night on promoting awareness to prevent acts of community violence, but not before council members and citizens added fuel to the ongoing debate over gun safety.
Councilwoman Deb Porter, D-at large, voted for the resolution, but she stressed much more could have been done and more remains to happen — locally and downstate.
“I understand the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) is an important part of our American life, but we need to make sure we’re not overzealous in permissiveness or availability that’s detracting from our ability to be safe in the community,” Porter said.
Coming after a presentation by Valparaiso school officials that included school safety, the resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Trista Hudson, R-at large. Quoting from the document, Hudson said the council wants to promote that “all persons be able to live, work, worship, recreate and go to school in the safest environments through vigilance and awareness and government commitment.”
While promoting the resolution, Hudson admitted the council is limited in its capacity to legally regulate the regulation of firearms, which is left to state and federal officials.
Porter, an elementary school music teacher in Portage and the mother of two, said she is “totally offended” by ongoing legislation in Indianapolis that would allow someone to carry a gun into a school or church.
Porter also cited previous legislation that stripped local governments and school systems of some authority in safety areas. This, she said, is “absolutely acceptable.”
The council member found an ally in many citizens at the meeting, including Candace Shaw. The Center Township resident and Valparaiso school mom noted, “There should not be guns on school property. Schools should be a place for learning.”
Not everyone at the meeting was ready to turn in his guns. Valparaiso resident Jason Chatwell, a hunter, gun collector and enthusiast, drew ire for suggesting armed citizens could help police in the case of a shooting incident.
“This resolution is meaningless,” Chatwell said. “There’s no strength to it. Basically, [the council] is just talking about what they want to do.”
In the resolution, Valparaiso officials call upon the state Legislature to convene a summer study committee to review current laws governing the purchase, ownership and possession of firearms, including background checks, age, registration and private transactions.
Other points include expansion of background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms; the placement of school safety officers; and the establishment of best practices in identifying persons at risk of committing violent acts and use those risk factors in background check process.
The resolution also encourages citizens to use, when applicable, a new state law that allows for the removal of firearms from a person believed to be dangerous.
While conceding that local officials have limited authority in security measures, Mayor Jon Costas said the city is taking a proactive approach, working with police and schools.
“We have a strong commitment to a state-of-the-art police presence in schools,” Costas said.