Taking the gun debate to the people: Many want common ground

PORTLAND, Ore. - People in the Portland area have strong feelings about the new initiative that former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, launched Tuesday to curb gun violence.

Giffords was shot in the head two years ago after a gunman opened fire in a supermarket parking lot. She nearly died. Six people were killed and 13 were wounded.

The couple is launching a campaign against the gun lobby after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Even though the opinions are strong on both sides and the emotions are high, many people in the Portland area are hoping to find common ground on the issue.

In a restaurant and a barber shop Tuesday, some people said they're not sure new gun laws are the answer while others are afraid what will happen without them.

"I'm a constitutionalist," said Tim Schilz while eating lunch at Tom's Pizza and Sports Bar in Gresham with his friend Don Staab. "I believe in what the Constitution says, and our rights guaranteed us by the Constitution delivered to us the freedom and the right to bear arms."

Schilz wondered aloud whether guns should be taken away from people or whether more help should be offered to the mentally ill. And between slices of pizza, he spoke about the idea of tougher laws.

"So take those people. Put them together in a room and write a bill that makes it hard to get a weapon. And if you have any history of mental illness or if you have any history of violence - even if you hit your wife - you don't get a gun. Period."

Staab wondered how to enforce the gun laws.

"To take the guns away, how would you enforce that? How would you go get them? In what capacity? Would you say, 'Everybody turn your guns in?' That's not going to work. To me, it's a difficult situation to talk about," he said.

Sitting in the chair and getting his haircut at The Barbers in Northeast Portland, Oliver Raskin said, "You have to kind of meet people halfway, I think. People have the right to own guns. ... It's very polarizing, right? People have legitimate points on both sides; though I do not agree with the fact that we need to have them because it is a constitutional right."

Raskin said he does support stronger gun laws.

"I feel like guns are like drugs," said Cassie Packard while cutting 19-year-old Collin Wiederstiel's hair. "If people want them then they're going to find them."

For his part Wiederstiel said he thought it was societal.

"Maybe we need should be questioning how much we glorify guns in our society," he said.

But both doubted whether anything will change.

Regardless of what will happen with gun control in the future, right now Oregon counties are inundated with applications for concealed handgun licenses.

In Lane County the number of applicants tripled in December. It's the same story in Linn County and at a shooting range in Albany instructors are seeing a similar spike.