Opponents of proposed gun regulations in Ashland have been meeting with city officials with the hope of finding common ground and getting regulation supporters involved as well.

Opponents of proposed gun regulations in Ashland have been meeting with city officials with the hope of finding common ground and getting regulation supporters involved as well.

Gun rights supporter Amy Haptonstall said she and others have been working with Mayor John Stromberg and City Councilors Pam Marsh and Mike Morris on an idea to hold an educational gun safety event for the whole community.

People on all sides of the issue are invited to a brainstorming session at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the downstairs large conference room at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

"We need people from both sides to take part," Haptonstall said. "We want the council to see there are other options than passing a law."

On March 18, a council majority directed the city's legal department to draft an ordinance that would ban openly carrying loaded guns in public places. The earliest the council could consider whether to approve an ordinance is May.

A group of residents concerned about gun violence — especially mass shootings in American schools — had advocated the ban on carrying loaded guns in public, as well as a regulation requiring gun owners to store their weapons in a way that prevents unauthorized access by minors.

State law bars cities from passing regulations on gun storage, so councilors abandoned that aspect of the proposal.

Haptonstall said banning loaded guns in public would violate gun owners' constitutional rights while doing nothing to address the issue of kids and gun safety.

She said opponents and supporters of gun regulations in Ashland should all work together to improve safety.

With the help of other community members and businesses, gun regulation opponents hope to organize a public event in which people could learn about gun safes, the Ashland Police Department's free trigger lock program and other safety measures, Haptonstall said.

She said parents could be given tips about how to ask people in other households whether guns are in the home and whether they are stored securely.

Haptonstall said residents could also be told about the dangers of letting youths play with toy guns, including pellet guns and paintball guns, that look like real weapons.

When parents allow youths to play with toy guns and point them at people, that dilutes the message that guns must always be handled responsibly and safely. Tragic mix-ups can also occur, she said.

"What happens when a kid thinks a real one is a fake one and it's not?" she asked.

Marsh, who voted for the city legal department to draft the proposed ban on carrying loaded guns in public, said she wanted to reach out to gun regulation opponents after the vote.

"I thought, 'Whenever we talk about this, we all retreat to our corners and get farther and farther apart on this issue,'" Marsh said.

After meeting with Haptonstall, Marsh said, "I've been pretty impressed by our ability to find common ground."

For example, she said raising awareness about the importance of trigger locks and gun safes is important.

Marsh said people on both sides of the issue also need to address how to instill in kids the importance of gun safety, especially in an era of violent video games where on-screen characters are shot without real-life consequences.

Marsh said the issue of gun regulations is still unfolding, and she can't say yet whether she will abandon her initial support of a ban on carrying loaded guns in public.

But she added, "I'm more interested in a good discussion than pursuing that ordinance at this point."

Since councilors began discussing gun regulations, more gun rights supporters have been openly carrying their guns in Ashland, including downtown, in Lithia Park and at council meetings.

On Saturday, March 29, about 30 Ashland gun rights supporters had a barbecue in Lithia Park. Residents and visitors from Medford, White City, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls then walked peacefully around town openly carrying their guns, said gun rights proponent Vigo Fox. Organizers gathered at least 85 signatures from visitors, Fox said. The event was organized by Liberty! Ashland.

Some gun rights advocates have continued to carry openly in public, he said.

Fox said the control that local, moderate residents can exert on committed, out-of-town, open-carry activists only goes so far and will disappear if the council passes an ordinance banning carrying loaded guns in public.

Under the proposed ordinance, people who possess concealed handgun permits would still be allowed to carry concealed or openly displayed guns in public.

Fox said if the ordinance passes, locals with concealed handgun permits will openly carry their guns on a daily basis.

He said gun rights proponents hope to join with gun regulation supporters in a community dialogue to find common ground.

Stromberg said people on different sides of the issue need to meet together and talk face-to-face.

"We need to try and understand the other person's experience and where they are coming from, otherwise we're just talking about abstractions," he said. "People need to get to know the other person."

People who have questions about the upcoming community meeting on Tuesday can contact Marsh at 541-282-4516 or pam@council.ashland.or.us.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.