The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 16, 2013

Health expert lauds Obama’s proposals

Randy Griffith

— A local public health expert commended President Barack Obama’s proposals to end gun violence as a good starting point.

“For the first time, we actually have a comprehensive comment from the president, not only pertaining to firearms, but to violence in general,” Dr. Matthew Masiello said Wednesday.

Masiello is director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Windber Research Institute. His son was wounded in 2006 by a bullet fired toward a soccer field full of children.

He liked Obama’s approach to developing the proposals through meetings with various groups and interested individuals.

“That’s the first step in dealing with a public health issue,” Masiello said. “It is the public health response to a complex issue.”

Masiello agrees with Obama that changes will require a involvement by a broad range of people.

“This really needs to be a grassroots level,” he said. “I have been encouraging school leaders – principals and superintendents – to take the lead.

“Unfortunately, with the Sandy Hook tragedy, they are in the ideal situation. They have a bully pulpit to galvanize their teachers and their parents to offer comments to local, state and federal politicians.”

The region’s freshman congressman says he’s willing to listen.

“I will carefully review and consider the task force’s recommendations,” Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, said Wednesday in a statement following Obama’s press conference.

“It is critical that any legislation focuses on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals without restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Sen. Bob Casey said the president’s proposals included “very positive and reasonable steps.”

“The American people deserve a thoughtful effort to reach a comprehensive solution to address gun violence,” Casey said in a statement.

“I continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and believe in the right of citizens to own guns for their own protection as well as for hunting, recreation and collection,” Casey said.

“Nonetheless, after reflecting on the power of the weapon and the number of bullets that hit each child in Sandy Hook, the reinstatement of a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines are two common-sense steps that I support.”

Casey also supports increased funding for law enforcement support programs and measures to address mental health.

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