Gun reform talks resurface in wake of the San Jose VTA shooting

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — In San Jose, debates over gun control have resurfaced in the wake of the VTA rail yard mass shooting last week.  

The gunman, 56-year-old VTA employee Samuel Cassidy, armed with three semi-automatic handguns and high capacity magazines, fired 39 shots, killing nine of his coworkers last Wednesday morning. 

According to authorities, Cassidy legally owned and registered the guns, but some are calling for stricter gun control laws. 

“One of the things that always comes up for me when these things happens is, one I am overwhelmed by sadness and grief, and then I am even more committed to doing something about this because we shouldn’t have to live like this,” says Jessica Blitchok, San Jose resident and volunteer with the California Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

“And certainly shouldn’t have to die like this,” Blitchok added. 

“And the fact of the matter is that gun safety and gun safety measures are not a divisive issue, it’s something that a majority of Americans support.”

Locally, several groups have continued to push for more gun safety measures following the VTA rail yard shooting. 

Blitchok tells KRON4 News more federal gun laws need to be passed including federal background checks that could prevent mass shootings from taking place. 

“That’s supported by 93% of Americans, 93% that’s a huge majority,” says Blitchok. 

“This is not a 50/50 issue, there is a very vocal small minority that are arguing against them, but most of the country supports them and I am including in that 89% of Republicans and 89% of gun owners.”

But other San Jose residents don’t think more gun regulations are the solution either.  

Kyle Manzano, founder of Manzano Tactical, a local firearms safety school, says the state and county already have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. 

The more practical solution, Manzano says, would be to properly train people to handle these types of weapons and to ensure everyone is trained to defend themselves. 

“Thirty-four deaths in all of 2019 due to rifles in the state of California and that’s what everyone seems to focus and hone in on,” says Manzano. 

“If you look at the amount of those they’re usually in the larger cities in California where they don’t allow things like CCW’s (concealed carry permit),” Manzano added. 

“Imagine if one of those VTA employees had a CCW?”

Manzano is an advocate for concealed carry laws and does admit that not every mass shooting can be stopped, but says allowing people to be able to defend themselves could potentially save their lives. 

“It’s not going to stop that person from committing the act but laws are stopping everyday good civilians from being able to stop it on their own.”

Gun reform laws are passed down federally and in some cases at the state level. 

But locally, the city of San Jose is working on plans to roll out additional local policies to prevent things like straw purchases, the process of buying a firearm for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one, from happening. 

“Just really create certain barriers to someone who has mental illness or has a criminal background from purchasing a gun,” says Chappie Jones, San Jose Vice Mayor. 

“But there’s only so much we can do at the local level.”

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