Allentown Morning Call
U.S. Rep. Charles W. Dent got a double-barrelled reception on his first visit to Hamburg, where he was peppered with questions on gun control during a town hall meeting Wednesday.
“How are you going to vote on the gun control bill?” a woman demanded.
Dent, a Lehigh County Republican whose reshaped 15th Congressional District includes part of northern Berks County, agreed the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms.
He parted company, however, with several speakers who said the Second Amendment right is unrestricted.
“With rights, come responsibilities,” said Dent, 52. “The challenge we face is how to keep assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
Dent doubted that California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill, which would ban 157 types of assault-style rifles, will pass the Republican-controlled House.
Relaxed in a blue business shirt and khaki slacks, Dent reviewed his background for about 50 people gathered in the Hamburg Senior Center in borough hall.
Re-elected to a fifth term in November, his district includes parts of Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Lebanon and Dauphin counties.
He serves on the House Appropriations and Ethics committees, and has played an active role in the Homeland Security initiative.
Dent announced that he would be opening an office in borough hall in the near future.
He also noted that this week he sent a letter to Dr. Mark Emmert,NCAA president, decrying the elimination of 40 scholarships as part of the sanctions on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“The NCAA is hurting young people who are completely innocent of anything related to the Sandusky situation, and through no fault of their own are being denied a chance to get a great education at Penn State,” Dent wrote.
For more than 90 minutes, Dent fielded questions on hot-button issues such as gun control, illegal immigration, the Affordable Care Act and the national debt.
The audience, primarily senior citizens, took aim at PresidentBarack Obama’s call for a ban on assault-style weapons, characterizing the president as a dictator intent upon disarming the American public.
“Are you going along with legislation that violates my God-given right to bear arms?” asked James Bewley of Windsor Township. “I believe the federal government is overstepping its bounds.”
Michael Grim, 36, of Shoemakersville pressed Dent on why the federal government is buying assault rifles and hollow-point bullets when the Obama administration is calling for a ban on assault-style weapons.
“Why is the government trying to disarm us,” Grim asked, “at the same time it’s buying ammo to use on civilians?”
Dent, whose committee funds Homeland Security, theorized the arms may be for the Secret Service, Coast Guard or other agencies involved in domestic security.
“You have to balance individual rights against the needs of the community for public safety,” he said.
David Cordier III of Shoemakersville voted for Dent, a Republican, without knowing much about his policies.
“I came because I wanted to hear what he had to say right from his mouth,” said Cordier, who described himself as libertarian. “After listening to him, I like what I heard.”