Congressman Salud Carbajal drew strong reactions from constituents during a town hall meeting Thursday where he called for passage of two bills as steps addressing the gun violence epidemic and explained his decision for supporting a presidential impeachment inquiry.
A spirited audience filled the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center in northwest Santa Maria for the 90-minute session, with those in attendance applauding, cheering and booing in support or opposition.
Through a question and answer session, the event covered a wide range of topics including immigration reform, funding for roads, veterans issues, mental health care, health care, and the impact of tariffs.
“These town hall meetings are vitally important to our democracy and they make me a better representative of your views in Washington,” Carbajal said. People need to know where he stands on issues, even when they disagree, he added.
Thursday’s event including a moment of silence for the victims of mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, and Carbajal wore a tie given to him by constituents with the orange color designated for the campaign to end gun violence.
“Too many people are tragically being killed with guns, from suicides to homicide,” he said.
Bipartisan legislation requiring background checks for gun sales, while also closing the gun show and online loopholes, passed the House of Representatives in February, but has stalled in the Senate.
“These are common sense measures that Americans, including most responsible gun owners, overwhelming agree with,” Carbajal said. “It is unfortunate however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not allow a vote on these bills in the United States Senate.
“It’s high time that Mr. McConnell supports the American people and not the gun lobby,” Carbajal added, drawing applause and boos from the audience.
The congressman said he introduced his own bill, The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, which would temporarily keep guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
“Remarkably, even President (Donald) Trump, a few days ago, said this was a bill he would consider supporting,” Carbajal said.
“But we have heard that before. Ending the gun violence epidemic in our nation requires a multi pronged approach. One piece of legislation we know won’t fix it, but we have to start somewhere and we have to start now.”
He also called the recent mass shootings acts of domestic terrorism motivated by white supremacy ideology, which elicited a strong reaction from audience members all over the political spectrum.
Carbajal ticked off a list of allegations against Trump, including inviting Russia to meddle in elections, evading truth, and engaging in obstruction on at least 10 occasions.
Those factors have led him to join with Democratic colleagues in calling for an impeachment inquiry, or fact-finding phase, he said.
“I was elected to support and defend our constitution against all threats, domestic and foreign, and as I did as a United States Marine and I do it as a member of Congress, I take this responsibility seriously,” he said.
The topic led one person to shout an expletive, and another to yell, “Shut the hell up.”
“For me, this is not about politics, this is about fulfilling my constitutional duty,” Carbajal said later in the meeting.
Many speakers at the meeting said they approved of how Carbajal is doing his job in Congress, but several others did not, citing opposition to his support for gun control measures and a presidential impeachment inquiry, among other things.
“There’s a lot of people here that are constituents of yours tonight that don’t agree with any of the things that you have spoken about,” Santa Maria native Victoria Law said. “Nobody wants to see mass killings, but if anybody thinks that people in Washington, D.C. or the state capitol are gonna change our gun laws and make this stop, that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
She said Trump’s critics call him and his supporters terrible names — a comment that caused other audience members to laugh loudly.
Carbajal pointed out that the town hall meeting provided an opportunity for people from both sides to air their opinions, and that it was important to hear from those who disagree with him.
“I think it’s also important to recognize that this president has done and said a lot of bad things,” Carbajal said.
At the end of the lively session, Carbajal thanked those who attended from both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
“Whether you agreed or disagreed, this is what democracy looks like,” he added.