Manatee County residents express mixed feelings on curbing gun violence

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- Local residents expressed mixed feelings Wednesday about President Barack Obama's proposals to curb gun violence.

"I think this is a rush to judgment," said Patti Dolan, 58, a Palmetto oncologist who was at a gun range Wednesday.

"I've been in the health care field, and I feel some of our mental health problems are because we've let down that population."

Those with mentally ill children or parents have few recourses, she said, adding that "we've gotten so sympathetic, the reality of mental illnesses aren't dealt with."

She would like to see some funds that the president plans to use on limiting guns channeled instead to mental health services, such as residential facilities.

"Some people would do better if they were put on the right medications, and in a dormitory. ... Now, they're on the street."

A man entering a Bradenton gun shop declined to give his name, but said, "The president wants to destroy the U.S. as we know it."

A salesman in a Palmetto pawn shop, however, thought the president was on the right track.

"I think for sure something needs to be done about it," said Jeff Boston, 38, a salesman at Value Pawn & Jewelry, in Palmetto. "They need to keep assault rifles and clips with unlimited ammunition out of the hands of the wrong people."

"We don't carry weaponry at Value Pawn, which I'm glad about," he added.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, whose district includes much of Manatee County, was unavailable for comment Wednesday, according to an aide.

However, the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund most recently gave Buchanan a 92 percent rating, based on his votes and positions on issues of interest to the NRA. By comparison, Buchanan's opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Democrat Keith Fitzgerald, received a 17 percent ranking, according to information compiled by Project Vote Smart.

Buchanan's Democratic colleague from Tampa supported Obama's initiative.

"President Obama and Vice President Biden have presented a strong, comprehensive plan that rightfully proposes to increase access to mental health services for schools and students," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

"I have spoken with local school district and community leaders and experts in mental health about support for our teachers and students," she said. The president's plan rightfully calls for training 5,000 more social workers, counselors and psychologists, with a focus on those serving students and young adults, especially young, isolated male teenagers, she noted.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.com.

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