Citty under siege 

Citty’s comments, reported Jan. 16 in The Oklahoman, were made in regard to an incident in August in which police believe an 18-year-old man pulled an AR-15 — a semiautomatic rifle commonly featuring a pistol-grip and capable of using high-capacity ammunition clips — and shot Oklahoma City police officer Katie Lawson several times during a traffic stop. Lawson survived the shooting.

AR-15s were subject to the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, and Citty was quoted as saying that while he supports an individual’s gun rights, there is no practical reason for owning an AR-15.

Since Citty’s comments were published, the chief has received praise and criticism.

Citty did not respond to an interview request by Oklahoma Gazette.

City Councilman Sam Bowman and Pete White both praised Citty’s comments at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting, and urged residents to write Oklahoma congressional members asking them to support gun control measures.

“As the chief said, never in his 33 years has he experienced an incident with a police officer so outgunned as this incident,” said Bowman, who represents Ward 2. “I want to commend our chief for not only the courage to step forward on this, but to make such a statement with regards to these … knockoff military M-16-type rapid-fire assault guns. There’s no place for that kind of weapon in our civil communities.”

Bowman, who is not running for reelection, also said those types of weapons are separate from other guns and should be classified as such.

“I would hope this would have nothing to do with the argument about Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Bowman said. “It’s not about the right to own a weapon to protect your own home, to own a weapon to hunt in a sporting way. This is a very, very different piece of weaponry out there that is military in nature and just separate from all.”

White, the Ward 4 representative, commended Citty’s courage to come forward and make the comments publicly.

“We live in a time when the language surrounding Second Amendment rights are out of control, in my opinion,” White said. “It’s so controversial that it takes real courage for someone like him to bring it up and talk about it in a public place.”

At the same meeting, Ward 5 Councilman J. Brian Walters disagreed with White and Bowman, saying the responsibility belongs to the shooter, not the weapon used.

“I think we’re missing a little bit of an issue here. The firearm itself is not to blame; it’s the nut behind the firearm. If we start making laws and restrictions on things, it restricts the law-abiding citizen,” said Walters, adding that he owned similar types of weapons. “Personally, I would have liked nothing more than for somebody to drop that guy (the shooter) right where he stood. That would have been the best scenario. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. But to come after something that a vast majority of citizens do not use inappropriately because there’s a few nuts out there is completely inappropriate.”

On Jan. 19, Windsor Hills Baptist Church Pastor Tom Vineyard wrote an open letter to Citty, taking issue with the police chief’s comments.

Vineyard wrote that it is misleading to characterize an AR-15 as an assault rifle, and that both the U.S. and state constitutions enshrine the right to own weapons.

Vineyard also wrote in the letter that the problem was not with what style of gun was used, but with the immigration status of the vehicle’s driver, who was the father of the alleged shooter.

“I would like to boldly suggest though that the real problem is not the style of guns that citizens are allowed to possess, but the illegal immigrants who are the cause of many such crimes,” Vineyard wrote. “I think that I can confidently speak for the majority of law-abiding citizens in the state of Oklahoma that they would much rather you focus your attention upon the much more pertinent issue of illegal immigrants in our state and in Oklahoma City than to try to fabricate illegitimate reasons to regulate the state and country’s lawful liberty to keep and to bear arms.”

Vineyard, whose church holds an annual event recognizing law enforcement, as well as shooting courses, offered to help with fundraising to help purchase weapons for on-duty officers if not all of them had AR-15s and shotguns in their patrol vehicles.

Vineyard went a step further in a video-recorded telephone interview with National Rifle Association News, posted on YouTube Jan. 25, in which he called for Citty to step down.

“I’m calling for his resignation,” Vineyard said in the interview. “He needs to resign. He misrepresented the facts. He inaccurately told what had happened with the police officer who was injured.”

Vineyard said in the interview he also used the Windsor Hills Baptist Church marquee to post Citty’s office phone number, encouraging people to call the chief and share their opinions.

In an interview with the Gazette, Vineyard said he and the church are “100 percent” on the side of law enforcement, and reiterated that he would help fundraise in order to help purchase weapons for the police.

When asked by the Gazette if he stood by his call for Citty’s resignation, Vineyard said, “He needs to be the police chief; if he wants to be a legislator, he needs to run for office.”

Two new candidates for City Council, Ward 6 candidate Adrian Van Manen and Ward 8 candidate Clifford Hearron, are members of Windsor Hills Baptist Church. Hearron and Vineyard said the duo’s decision to run for office was not based on Citty’s comments and was made far in advance.

Read the full text of Vineyard’s letter.

View the YouTube video.

photo/Mark Hancock

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