White House parley on guns promising, Villaseñor reports

2013-01-29T00:00:00Z 2013-01-29T08:25:55Z White House parley on guns promising, Villaseñor reportsStaff And Wire Reports Staff And Wire Reports Arizona Daily Star

WASHINGTON - Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said he was encouraged by a discussion on gun control during a meeting with President Obama and other police chiefs at the White House Monday.

Obama met with police chiefs from around the country - including three from communities affected by mass shootings in 2012: Aurora, Colo., where 12 were killed in July; Oak Creek, Wis., where six died in a Sikh temple assault; and Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six school staffers were killed in December.

In a news release, Villaseñor said it was an encouraging discussion about the need to bring reasonable reform to a complicated topic.

As part of Villaseñor's participation in the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association Conference this week, he was invited to the White House to meet with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to talk about gun violence.

Points discussed, Villaseñor said in the news release, included:

• Universal background checks.

• General opposition to extended-capacity magazines available for public use.

• A need to consider mental health issues.

• A desire of law enforcement executives to develop a mechanism to record any time a gun is transferred, lost or stolen.

Villaseñor said the police chiefs and Obama also discussed the role mental illness plays in violence.

Though the majority of people suffering from mental illness are not engaged in violent activity, some of the most recent acts of violence have been committed by people with mental instability, Villaseñor noted.

In the Tucson area, then- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head during a mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011. Six people died in the rampage, and 12 others were wounded. Jared Lee Loughner, who suffers from mental illness, was sentenced in November by a federal judge to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, for the shootings.

Obama kept up pressure on Congress Monday to pass new gun legislation, seeking help from law enforcement leaders in communities that have experienced mass shootings.

At the White House meeting, Obama said that no group is more important in the gun debate than law officers, and he said he recognizes the issue "elicits a lot of passion all across the country."

But Obama said he also believes Congress will respond to appeals from police.

"Hopefully if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them, and we'll be able to make progress," he said.

The president's meeting comes as he tries to build support for gun-control legislation that will be difficult to get through Congress. He urged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, limit high-capacity magazines and require universal background checks.

Obama met in the Roosevelt Room with the heads of the police chiefs association and the Major County Sheriffs Association, members of his Cabinet and chiefs who responded to the worst shootings of 2012.

Obama also said that Washington needs to take mental health issues and school safety more seriously and should help law enforcement agencies hire more police, help train them and give rural forces the resources they need.

"It's not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here," Obama said. "It's also what happens on a day-in, day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia where young people are victims of gun violence every single day."

Along with mass shootings, an issue is "what happens on a day-in, day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day." President Obama

Star reporter Carmen Duarte contributed to this story from Tucson, and The Associated Press reported from Washington.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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