Penn Valley couple lobbies Washington for stricter gun laws |

Penn Valley couple lobbies Washington for stricter gun laws

A Penn Valley couple participated in a delegation of family members devastated by the effects of gun violence that traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for stricter controls on access to firearms.

Nick and Amanda Wilcox, residents of Penn Valley, visited the White House and the U.S. Congress on Thursday along
with 32 other family members of people who were either killed or seriously injured in firearm incidents to share their personal stories.

The couple’s daughter, Laura, was one of three people killed on Jan 10, 2001, when a mentally ill man, Scott Thorpe, went on a shooting rampage throughout western Nevada County.

Laura was a 19-year-old sophomore at Haverford College working at a public mental health clinic during her winter break from college when she was shot four times at close range and died immediately.

“We can do better than this as a nation and we want action.”
— Amanda Wilcox

Since the death of their daughter, Nick and Amanda Wilcox have helped pass Laura’s Law in California, which allows for court-ordered outpatient treatment for the mentally ill or forced treatment with anti-psychotic drugs.

Amanda Wilcox has spent much of her time in Sacramento promoting various legislative changes to gun control laws, including the requirement of long-gun registration records to be kept by the California Department of Justice and the passage of the open carry law.

On Thursday, the couple took their message to Washington, as they joined others brought together by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, to hand deliver a letter calling for a meaningful dialogue and swift action by federal legislators to reduce violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings that left 27 people dead, including 20 children ages 6 or 7.

“We can do better than this as a nation and we want action,” said Amanda Wilcox.

The type of action the families are demanding include background checks for all gun owners.

“For every background gun sale, about 40 percent of them do not include a background check,” Amanda Wilcox said.

People who have been determined to be mentally ill, have extensive criminal backgrounds or have been convicted of domestic violence cannot buy firearms under federal law, but these laws
are essentially feckless if background checks are not required, she said.

“You ask people if they want gun control and they say ‘no,’ but you ask if background checks should be required they say ‘yes,’” Amanda Wilcox said.

“We need to keep dangerous weapons out of dangerous hands.”

Amanda Wilcox labeled the trip to Washington “an honor” to be included in the delegation, including some with “fresh losses.”

One man was the father
of a boy who survived the Newtown shootings, but was traumatized by the incident, Wilcox said.

“It was so bad what happened in Connecticut,” Wilcox said. “It was a tipping point, but those kinds of things are happening every day.”

The 32 families brought together by the Brady Campaign represent the 32 individuals killed daily by gun violence, Amanda Wilcox said.

“It can happen anywhere; it happened in Nevada County in 2001,” she said.

Incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting does not cause Amanda Wilcox to relive 2001, because it is something she lives with every day.

“It’s not like I’ve forgotten,” she said. “I live with it every day.”

Political response

Politicians have said the incident in Connecticut demonstrates the need to act legislatively to ensure the safety of American school children.

“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” said President Barack Obama during a Wednesday press conference where he announced Vice President Joe Biden would lead the effort to seek solutions to gun violence.

“The fact that we cannot prevent every act of violence does not mean we cannot steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of two senators representing California, announced her intention to introduce legislation that would cease the legal sale of more than 100 assault weapons.

“On the first day of the new Congress, I intend to introduce a bill stopping the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of assault weapons as well as large ammunition magazines, strips and drums that hold more than 10 rounds,” Feinstein said in a statement. “I am in the process of gathering support for the bill in the Senate and House.”

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock said Feinstein’s proposal would not only prove ineffective at fighting gun-related violence, but would also empower criminals against a defenseless law-abiding citizenry.

“For example, under Connecticut law, without special dispensation it is a class D felony to bring a firearm onto a school campus,” McClintock said. “The gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School ignored this law; the staff obeyed it. As a result, they were helpless to stop him.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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