Council votes against group’s gun resolution effort

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Mayor Matt Waligora presents a proclamation to Catholic Human Services Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Barbara Edison during Monday’s municipal council meeting. The proclamation declares April as Social Host Awareness month.

ALPENA — Alpena Municipal Council voted 3-2 against a resolution to support the March for Our Lives effort that calls for elected officials to take a stronger stand on guns. Mayor Matt Waligora, council members Susan Nielsen and Mike Nowak against supporting the resolution. Cindy Johnson and Amber Hess voted yes.

People for Social Justice in Alpena is joining many other communities around the country and is conducting a march in Alpena Saturday afternoon. The city already gave the group permission to host the march and to use Culligan Plaza afterward.

The resolution states that neither state nor federal government has addressed to reduce or outlaw “military grade” assault type firearms, or does enough to tackle a growing mental health issue, which has led to violent acts.

Hess made a motion to approve the resolution and said more needs to be done to protect people from gun violence and she supported the effort to try to do more to reduce it. Nowak said he agrees 100 percent with a need for action to prevent more school shootings and other gun crimes, but he believes the resolution didn’t do enough to let lawmakers know they need to do more about mental illness and for that reason couldn’t support it.

“I 100 percent support the walk and I 100 percent support students rights to petition our community, state and federal leaders,” Nowak said. “That being said there are things in here I can’t support and I think there could be more included besides just sensible gun laws.”

Johnson said there was enough mention of mental illness in the resolution for her to support it. She said it is going to take more than gun laws to stop gun violence and it likely won’t happen overnight.

“This is a multi-faceted issue and there is not an easy fix,” Johnson said. “There is a lot in the resolution that is good and we have to start somewhere to solve this problem.”

Waligora said there was one paragraph in the resolution that persuaded him to not support the resolution. He said if it was approved it sort of spoke for everyone in the city, even those who may have differing views. He read it aloud to those in council chambers.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, the City of Alpena stands with the students and children of our community by demanding that our state and federal elected officials enact sensible gun control policies,” Waligora said. “That is all it is asking for, period. I cannot support that.

Neilsen said she believes mental health is the primary issue when it comes to gun crimes and mass shootings. She said gun control isn’t the answer and if tougher laws are passed, those who follow rules and regulations will be the ones being punished.

“If we start banning guns from law abiding citizens the only people who will have them are the bad guys,” she said. “I just don’t think taking rights away from people who follow the letter of the law is the right things to do. I do think doing more to help mental illness is important because it is a huge factor in the gun crimes.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.