Gaspar declines anti-gun violence proclamation, both sides cry political foul

ENCINITAS — An anti-gun violence activist is crying foul after Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar declined to issue a proclamation that called for the city to commit to doing what it could to reduce gun violence, which Gaspar called too politically divisive.

Steve Bartram, a board member of the San Diego County chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who has helped organize the National Vigil to End Gun Violence’s local event the past three years, requested Gaspar issue the proclamation, which he said was even more pertinent in the wake of the recent massacre in San Bernardino.

The vigil, which started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach.

In addition to declaring the day as a day of “remembrance for all victims of gun violence,” the proclamation also encouraged “each of us to honor our peacemakers and renew our commitment to the prevention of such suffering in the future.”

Bartram said he was surprised when City Clerk Kathy Hollywood emailed him to inform him that Gaspar did not support the proclamation in its form.

“Given what is going on in Southern California, I felt that the proclamation was especially pertinent,” said Bartram, who is married to Encinitas Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer. “It was disappointing to say the least.”

Reached this week, Gaspar said she declined the proclamation because it focused on the broader issue of gun violence and did not have a clear and obvious link to Encinitas, which she said is the rule of thumb she uses to determine whether to accept or decline proclamation requests.

In her declining, Gaspar said she left the door open for Bartram to submit a more narrowly focused proclamation request.

While the city does not have a uniform policy on proclamations, Gaspar said this has been the practice of past mayors, including her immediate predecessor, Teresa Barth.

“I have declined a few requests from groups, organizations, and individuals in my first year as Mayor. In each instance, it was offered for the request to be rewritten to demonstrate a clear and obvious link to Encinitas,” Gaspar wrote in an email. “Unfortunately this request focused more on broader issues and statements.

“The issue of dealing with the broader topic of combatting gun violence is one that has potential to philosophically divide our community which is certainly not the intent of the proclamation program,” she said.

Barth, who is registered as a “declined to state” but was often part of the majority voting bloc on the council that opposed Gaspar, confirmed that her personal policy mirrored Gaspar, that proclamations had to deal with a local person, business, event or issue of community interest.

She did, however, ask the council to support joining the Mayors Against Illegal Guns national effort, which the council supported unanimously.

Barth would not comment about the current situation involving Gaspar and Bartram, but said she planned on attending the vigil.

Bartram said he believed that Gaspar declined the proclamation due to political pressure from fellow Republicans, who might see her support of the proclamation as support for gun control, a delicate subject and potential litmus test for conservatives.

 

Gaspar is currently running for Dist. 3 Supervisor against incumbent Dave Roberts, a Democrat, and Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, a fellow Republican who is viewed as a more conservative candidate than Gaspar. Bartram said he believes she could lose support from the conservative base if she is seen supporting anything that appears to be an endorsement for gun control.

“It’s sad, but I do think politics are playing a role here,” Bartram said.

Gaspar fired back that she believed that Bartram’s proclamation itself was a political ploy to generate the very controversy that is occurring.

“I hope you asked the author of the proclamation (Lisa Shaffer’s husband-Steve Bertram (sic)) whether politics played a role in him making the request and drafting the proclamation,” Gaspar wrote in her email.

One political expert said that Gaspar’s decision to decline the proclamation was politically pragmatic.

“Let’s face it, the people who are upset that she didn’t sign the proclamation probably weren’t going to vote for her next year anyway,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UCSD. “It was probably the safest thing for her to do. Failing to endorse the proclamation doesn’t necessarily mean she is opposed to gun control, but as mayor she is not trying to push a policy where there’s not unanimous support in the community.”
But Kousser said Gaspar and other local politicians probably won’t be able to politically sidestep the issue of gun control for much longer, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding Chicago’s assault weapon ban.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes gun control an increasingly local issue, so politicians are going to have to take a position,” Kousser said.

Gaspar said she will address the San Bernardino shooting at Wednesday’s council meeting.

“The San Bernardino shooting was a tragic act of domestic terrorism that I take very seriously,” Gaspar said. “I plan to make remarks at the council meeting regarding the tragic loss of lives.”

This story has been updated since its original posting.

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