Locals gathered Saturday to debate gun control laws and rally against gun violence. NBC 7's Chris Chan spoke to San Diegans on both sides of the ongoing debate.
More than 100 people gathered at a local church Saturday afternoon to rally against gun violence and debate gun control laws.
A rally was held around 3 p.m. at the First Unitarian Universality Church on Front Street in Hillcrest. There, participants called for stricter federal gun laws, a ban on assault weapons, the banning of high-capacity magazines and universal background checks for those who wish to own firearms.
The demonstration was organized by a local group called “People for a Safe Community.” The organization’s mission is to modify current gun laws in an effort to improve public safety for all Americans.
Several speakers were assembled for Saturday’s event, including San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, Poway Unified School District Board member Rick McCoy and Maryanne Pintar, on behalf of U.S. Rep. Scott Peters.
Some parents whose children were victims of gun violence also attended the rally, as well as representatives from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office and Congresswoman Susan Davis’ office.
Rally participant Joan Keefe, from the organization Mothers Demand Action, said it’s crucial to act now in order to change gun laws.
“Get on the phone, mail letters, call and get your neighbors involved,” Keefe said at Saturday’s rally.
Kimberley Beatty, a former agent at the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms says passing new legislation is difficult and will take a major effort from the community.
“It's really about getting that community activism started here in San Diego, and move forward and start enacting sensible gun laws,” said Beatty.
But, while local activists are increasing their efforts to pass new gun control laws, their arguments are being matched by those who see these laws as an encroachment on their right to bear arms protected by Constitution.
Local gun rights advocate Gerald Reaster told NBC 7 he’s contacted 20 senators across the country in the past week to urge them not to pass any bans on weapons.
“A free man owns a gun. A subject – or a slave – does not,” said Reaster.
Reaster sees these laws as an opening to eventual confiscation of all guns.
“The second amendment is not up for discussion. And it's not unambiguous -- not one bit. [It] shall not be infringed,” he added.
Mayor Filner attended the anti-gun violence rally in Hillcrest and said he believes a law requiring universal background checks will likely pass in Congress. However, a ban on assault weapons could be more difficult.
Ed. Note: A previous version of this article misidentified Maryanne Pintar,District Director for Rep. Scott Peters, as a representative of the San Diego chapter of Mothers Demand Action for Sensible Gun Control. We regret the error.