Dent, Gerlach Update Constituents In Lebanon Town-hall Meeting

Lebanon Daily News

Gun control was the hot topic at a town hall meeting held by Lebanon County’s two U.S. House representatives on Monday.

Representatives Jim Gerlach and Charlie Dent answered questions for about an hour and 20 minutes at the Lebanon municipal building. About 50 people turned out for the event, most of them older.

The first three people to address the lawmakers brought up gun control — though the third man made a statement rather than asking a question.

The first man suggested sending people to prison for life if they use guns in the commission of a crime rather than attempting to pass laws that regulate guns.

Gerlach said he believes the U.S. Senate should take the lead on gun control.

“We in the House took the position that the House doesn’t have to start every bill on every issue, that the Senate’s allowed to actually vote on some things sometimes too, and they should really be the body that starts the effort on gun control and just see where they end up,” Gerlach said. “As of this point, it looks like there’s not a consensus even in the Senate on any gun-control legislation, so I’m not so sure where this issue goes at this point.”

Dent, meanwhile, responded by making reference to violence in movies and videogames, specifically Call of Duty.

“I know I don’t have the authority to pass a law to dictate the content of what should be in those videogames or what should be in the movies — there are days I wish I did, but I understand we have a First Amendment and we have to respect it, same with the Second Amendment,” he said. “We have a right to own firearms, it’s an individual right, but at the same time we have responsibilities to make sure we keep our firearms safely secured and we don’t transfer them to those who should not have them.”

Other topics included entitlements, government spending, jobs, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Keystone XL pipeline and voter fraud.

The meeting was briefly interrupted when a man sitting in the front row stood and gathered his American flag and an “Impeach Obama” sign. Gerlach asked the man if he was leaving.

“Mister, you aren’t trying to do anything,” the man responded. “You’re playing the game you’ve been playing for a long time. You just aren’t doing anything. If you want to do something about it, you can do something about it. But you gotta have some guts, and you gotta get off your ass and do something.”

The man, who did not give his name, then left the auditorium.

Gerlach and Dent each represent roughly half of the county’s population. Most of the residents in Lebanon city and eastern Lebanon County are in the 6th Congressional District, which is represented by Gerlach, a Republican from Chester County. The district also includes portions of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.

The remainder of the county’s residents, including a small portion of city residents, are in the 15th District, which is represented by Dent, a Republican from Lehigh County. The 15th also includes all of Lehigh and parts of Berks, Dauphin and Northampton counties.

After the meeting, Gerlach said events like Monday’s meeting are useful because they allow Congressmen to get a good sense of where their constituents stand on certain issues.

“We get a lot of input from constituents through emails, through letters, through telephone calls, and that’s a good way of judging where people are in your district at any particular time, but the best way is to come and meet with people individually or do it from a tele-townhall perspective,” he said. “It really helps educate us and make sure we’re understanding really where the district is.”

Gerlach, who is serving his sixth term in Congress, said the meetings are often productive.

“Sometimes it raises issues we really hadn’t been thinking about. Sometimes it reinforces that we’ve been thinking about, too. It’s always helpful, and it’s always a good use of time.”

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