A forum on preventing gun violence Monday night turned into a heated debate on gun laws.
“At what point do you stop infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens and start enforcing the laws that are in place?” one gun rights advocate asked U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who hosted the event in Arlington.
"When the death of innocent people is reduced,” Moran retorted. “Then we will probably be less aggressive.”
The forum — "Preventing Another Newtown: A Conversation on Gun Violence in America” — featured a mix of panelists, including former federal agent David Chipman, who is an adviser to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook, and Jonathan Lowy, the director of the Legal Action Project, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The forum took place at Washington-Lee High School in a crowded auditorium of gun rights advocates and gun control supporters.
Before the meeting had even started, a cluster of protestors held signs outside the high school with messages such as “Honk! For gun rights.”
Matthew Hurtt, who is the vice chairman of the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans, said the group was there to show support for the Second Amendment.
“The overwhelming response during our demonstration was positive,” Hurtt said.
The panelists talked for the first hour about current gun laws and what measures are in the works.
“Most people think if you are mentally ill you can't get a gun, but that’s not the way the law reads,” said panelist Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “Seriously mentally ill is not the standard for being prohibited from buying a gun.”
Horwitz said under current federal laws, Jared Lee Loughner, who pleaded guilty to shooting former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, would not have been prevented from buying a weapon.
Cook, speaking from the point of view of law enforcement, said, “You won't find my profession trying to take guns away from America. You will find my profession trying to better control those weapons to protect us and our society."
“There is no such thing in America as 'I can’t believe it happened here.' We are all potential places of violence,” Cook said.
Stella Covre, who lives in Old Town Alexandria, took issue against Moran’s desire to restrict ammunition magazines to 10 rounds through the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act
“I’m a small person. I can’t handle the recoil of a large-caliber weapon,” said Covre, who spoke during the forum and later clarified her stance with Patch. “…Small-caliber bullets do not have the stopping power; that’s why you want more than 10 rounds.”
She added: “Mr. Moran expressed opinion, but I value my life more than Mr. Moran’s opinion.”
Moran, meanwhile, said he “expected most of the people here would be opposed” to his position.
“The fact is that those who tend to be in favor of gun rights tend to feel more intensity then those who feel we should have stronger gun laws,” Moran said.