Gun control brought out strong views at a town hall meeting with state Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-10th, Wednesday night.
“I’m never going to be flexible on the Second Amendment,” Bernstine said to residents gathered at the borough building.
It was his 12th town hall meeting in a series of 14 around his district that he intends to complete by the first 16 months of his term.
Bernstine, who usually carries a semi-automatic pistol, said he opposes gun bans and limiting the rights of legal gun owners.
However, he said he would like the states to be held more accountable through mandated reporting of felonies to the National Instant Crime Background Check System, which is used to prevent convicted felons of purchasing firearms.
“The states are making a conscious decision to not do it,” he said. “I think it’s important that we mandate states to do that.”
Claire Torso, a resident who taught at Seneca Valley School District, said she wasn’t satisfied by the representative’s view.
“I’m really concerned about school violence and the rights of the students,” Torso said. “I hope that he can support some common- sense gun laws.”
Gary Torso, Claire’s husband, said he and his wife appreciated the chance to speak.
“It’s good that he holds these town hall meetings,” Gary Torso said. “It’s good that he hears conflicting stances to his own.”
But Gary Torso said he felt as if he were facing an immovable opinion, which he said contrasts his view of a politician’s role as a mediator and compromiser.
“What is disconcerting is the lack of flexibility or compromise when he talks about issues,” Gary Torso said.
Karl Sparn Jr., a resident and farm owner, said he thought some of the questions residents asked Bernstine were misguided and ill-informed.
Bernstine explained multiple times the difference between a semi-automatic weapon, which fires one bullet per trigger pull, and an automatic weapon, which can fire a stream of bullets by holding down the trigger.
“I’m taken aback by that,” Sparn said. “They obviously don’t do their homework.”
Sparn said the National Firearms Act has already addressed the issue by banning automatic weapons to anyone without a specialized permit.
“It was highly regulated, and it’s still regulated today,” Sparn said.
At the town hall, residents’ questions ranged from economic inequality to gerrymandering.
“It’s a good opportunity to come out not just to talk, but to do a lot of listening,” Bernstine said.
Brian McLaughlin, a military veteran, said the talks were constructive aside from a few incidents of people in the crowd arguing their points back and forth, but he expected divisiveness.
“I thought it was as best as it could have been when interacting with a representative,” McLaughlin said. “Sometimes you have to ask tough questions, but I never felt uncomfortable.”
McLaughlin, who said Bernstine appeared to answer honestly, said it is important for politicians to be tested in such fires.
“We vote for them, and if they’re not doing the job they’re meant to do, then they need to hear it,” he said.
Bernstine said his visit to Slippery Rock may have been a bit more active than some of his other town halls, but he appreciates it all the same.
“I think every person that comes to these events has a different issue on the top of their mind,” he said. “We’re excited that people are passionate about issues.”