Gun control was front and center at this week's Irvine City Council meeting following the slaying of two residents Feb. 3.
Mayor Steven Choi began and ended Tuesday's meeting in memory of Cal State Fullerton assistant basketball coach Monica Quan, 28, and her fiance, USC public safety officer Keith Lawrence, 27, the first alleged victims of suspected cop-turned-killer Christopher Dorner.
Councilman Larry Agran, perturbed by the council's silence on the issue of gun control, suggested amending the city's 2013 State and Federal Legislative Platform to incorporate restrictions on gun and ammunition ownership.
The legislative platform serves as a guide for city officials, staff and legislative advocates on the city's priorities for lawmakers at the state and federal levels.
"I have not met a single person in Irvine who didn't, in the aftermath of what happened at Newtown, ask whether Newtown could be our town — and of course, it could," he said.
Agran said every year about 12 Irvine residents die from gun-related violence, which is about half the national average.
The amendment failed 2 to 3, with Choi, Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway and Councilwoman Christina Shea dissenting. The legislative platform as originally proposed passed 5 to 0.
Residents came forward to rally the council's support for increased gun safety measures after Agran introduced the amendment.
"Gun violence in this country has become absolutely epidemic," Toni Dwyer said. "From Newtown, Conn., to Chicago, Ill., to right here in our very own city of Irvine — a very safe city. And we cannot ignore this devastating scourge."
Alan Meyerson cited Irvine's reputation as one of the nation's safest cities, adding that inaction regarding gun safety would damage the city's recognition.
"I'm not saying we should take guns away from people or take away their 2nd Amendment rights," he said. "What I am saying is that there should be a limit to what they can have, and we should set that example because people look to this city for leadership."
Lalloway flatly opposed the amendment, calling on California's already strict laws. Faced by a discussion about universal background checks and restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips and "certain" assault weapons, Lalloway suggested trying to repeal the 2nd Amendment altogether.
"The one word I have not heard today is the 'Constitution,'" he said. "Everyone wants to protect the 1st Amendment, and I'm among them, but no one wants to protect the 2nd Amendment. We may not like it, we may disagree with it, but it's the Constitution of the United States."
According to Shea, the council was ill-prepared for an in-depth dialogue about gun violence.
She agreed with Councilwoman Beth Krom that a conversation about illegal gun violence should go hand-in-hand with one about youth and adult mental-health issues.
Krom, who joined the group Mayors Against Illegal Gun Violence when she was mayor, said, "I take exception to the suggestion, especially at a time when a fugitive is out there and we open tonight's meeting in memory of [a] couple that was gunned down right here in our city, that to raise the concept of this council taking a position on gun safety in America is somehow inappropriate. I disagree."
Lalloway also drew a parallel between the restrictive gun laws of Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and the increased propensity for violence in each of those cities.
"I hate to say it, but it seems to me just another politician trying to get out in front of this issue — it's today's issue of the day," he said.
Choi commended postman Roger Steeber for saving an elderly Irvine resident's life Sept. 17.
Steeber was on his route when he saw smoke billowing from Karen Petersen's mobile home.
According to Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Michael Moore, the fire moved fast on one of the windiest days of the year, and Steeber's quick thinking saved Petersen, 79, before she was overcome by smoke.
In other council news, the city joined the Assn. of California Cities of Orange County (ACC-OC), which will cost about $24,000 this year.
The council unanimously voted in favor of the membership motion, with residents calling it a "terrific resource."
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, Tustin Mayor Al Murray, former San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Laura Freese, Irvine resident and transportation expert Sarah Catz and Orange County Business Council Chief Executive Lucy Dunn also supported the move.
Krom, echoing others on the council, voiced her concern that Choi intended to replace the city's League of California Cities membership with one in ACC-OC.
"I am really tired of Orange County working against its best interest," said Krom, who is on the league's board and has been involved with the organization for nearly 13 years. "I'm tired of cities being stratified. I'm tired of us being divided into small cities and big cities. I'm tired of partisanship being injected into non-partisan offices and I'm tired of people having to pick sides. This is a county that either stands together or falls together."
Choi clarified that although he hoped to take full advantage of the city's position with ACC-OC, he was fully aware of the benefits associated with being part of the league.
"Tonight's motion is a simple one — let's join the ACC-OC," he said.
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