Mountain View Voice

News - February 21, 2014

Raucous gun control event spurs council review of chamber policy

by Daniel DeBolt

NRA members packed the City Council chambers last weekend to shout down speakers promoting tighter local gun control laws, spurring City Council members to seek a review of the city's "vague" policy against political events in the City Council chambers.

"I'm open to having the council chambers off limits" to such events, said council member Margaret Abe-Koga at the end of the Feb. 11 council meeting. A majority of the council was also interested enough to have the Council Procedures Committee look at the city's policies for use of the City Council chambers for such events not sponsored by the city.

Council member Jac Siegel said it wasn't fair to put city staff in the position of interpreting a policy against political events in the City Council chambers, a policy which Mayor Chris Clark called "vague."

"Defining a political event is going to be tough because almost anything can be political," Clark said. "Free speech-wise, I'm not sure how we deal with that."

During the event Saturday morning — hosted by former Mountain View mayor and state Assemblywoman Sally Lieber — National Rifle Association members had an intimidating presence, standing around the edges of the chambers and shouting down speakers, some before they could even start, some attendees said.

One speaker was Mountain View resident Josh Wolf, who led a march calling out former Mayor John Ink for not signing on with a group called "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" organized by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As Wolf began to speak, a man holding a sign that said "statistical slaughter" interrupted him repeatedly, saying "Are you a credential teacher sir, yes or no? Legal question sir, legal question." Another shouted, "Are you part of the Occupy movement?"

Lieber reminded everyone that cards were provided for them to write questions on. "Answer the question!" shouted a woman. "You won't answer the question?" shouted a third man. "It's a plain, simple question!"

Wolf was eventually able to speak, ignoring the questions.

Videos posted to YouTube of the event only capture its second half. Attendees said that mothers of victims of gun violence were also shouted at by the group, at the start of the event.

At Tuesday's council meeting, a few residents were overheard calling the event "polarizing."

"The contrast between this and the Civility Roundtable held on basically the same subject, was remarkable," said council member John Inks. "It wasn't a forum, it was a shouting match."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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