Mayors in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Bernardino and a number of other Southern California cities on Wednesday joined in support of President Barack Obama's call for Congress to adopt the most sweeping gun control measures in more than 20 years, including increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and large ammunition clips.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a member of the national Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign, met with a group of students from around the region who support tougher gun control laws.
"We know, because we've been through this before, through the passage of time, resolution to change withers," Villaraigosa said at a City Hall press conference. "This time, we cannot allow that to happen."
About 700 members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign signed a letter in December, shortly after the Newtown, Conn. school shootings, calling for stricter gun control nationwide. The mayors of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Malibu, Montclair, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga and San Bernardino were among those who signed the letter.
Villaraigosa said he supports the package presented by Obama, adding he will seek to have the city's three pension funds divest themselves of any money invested with arms or ammunition manufacturers.
"I don't want to see the city make one quarter, not one dime, from the manufacturers of these weapons of war," Villaraigosa said. The mayor said he was asking for a report on the extent of the investments and what would be involved in any divestment strategy.
When he was speaker of the state Assembly, Villaraigosa was the co-author of legislation banning the sales of assault weapons and Saturday night specials in the state.
"California should join with New York in again becoming a national leader on this issue," Villaraigosa said.
The New York legislature this week adopted a series of tough measures designed to control gun sales.
While many mayors around Southern California supported the president's proposals, Highland Mayor Larry McCallon, a conservative Republican, said he would support increasing federal grants to hire school officers but opposes the other major elements of the Obama plan.
"I think the Second Amendment rights are pretty clear and that the last bans they did on assault weapons didn't do anything," McCallon said. "You can't control human behavior by banning weapons. The Newtown incident is not going to be resolved by doing anything about guns. We need to put people in schools to protect the children.
"I think the tracking goes too far. I think we have pretty good registration going on right now."
However, Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris, who owns several guns including an assault weapon, said he would be willing to give it up.
"In light of recent events, why we let people have access to assault weapons without stringent controls is beyond me," Parris said, adding his views have changed since the Sandy Hook shootings. "I'm willing to give up my weapons if it means our children are safe."
Parris also raised questions about whether teachers should be armed, because of the training that would be needed.
"Unless you have the proper training, I suspect they would have died even sooner than they did," Parris said. "It's difficult to be put in those situations without the proper training."
Palmdale Mayor James Ledford said he also supports the president's proposal, particularly as it related to background checks.
"I own weapons and the process I went through was not unreasonable," Ledford said. "I think we have a serious disconnect when it comes to mental health issues and that seems to be a common denominator in these cases."
Ledford said he also does not object to an assault weapon ban.
"I'm not quite sure what someone would use it for," Ledford said. "I think a reasonable person should be open to a conversation to try to find a reasonable solution.
San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris called the president's plan "a good first step."
"Background checks for all gun sales," Morris said. "It's very important to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Very common sense. Those weapons are only made to kill people. They're not used for hunting."
Morris is bothered that handguns are not being discussed.
"It is the tragedy of handguns that most concerns me as a mayor."
Morris also said it's critical for the federal government to continue funding of the COPS grants program, which has been used to supplement the police department that has suffered major cuts because of the financial problems facing the city.
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster called the president's proposal "judicious and thoughtful.
"It is particularly gratifying to see the level of focus the president's executive actions placed on mental health issues in the dialogue on preventing mass violence," Foster said.
Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton said he wants to see the details of the proposal, but he supports the idea.
"It's a beginning and I totally support what they are trying to do," Eaton said. "We've got to get this under control. They are not going to be taking guns away from people."