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South Lake County residents grill Visclosky about guns, health care and Congress

Congressman Pete Visclosky visited Lowell Town Hall Thursday January 10 2013 for first his town forum mettings throughout Lake County.

Congressman Pete Visclosky visited the Lowell Town Hall on Thursday, January 10, 2013 for the first of his town forum mettings throughout Lake County. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media

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More Town Halls

Friday

10 a.m. at Munster Town Hall, 1005 Ridge Road, Munster

12 p.m. at Crown Point Public Library, 122 N. Main St., Crown Point

2 p.m. at Portage Public Library, 2665 Irving St., Portage

4 p.m. at Westchester Public Library, 100 West Ave., Chesterton

6 p.m. at Valparaiso City Hall, 166 Lincolnway, Valparaiso

Note: an interpreter for the deaf will be present.

Saturday

10 a.m. at Wicker Park Clubhouse, 2000 Ridge Road, Highland

12 p.m. at Gary YWCA, 150 West 15th Ave., Gary

2 p.m. at Hobart City Hall, 414 Main St., Hobart

4 p.m. at American Legion Post 369, 1401 W. Chicago Ave., East Chicago

6 p.m. at Hammond-South: Purdue University Calumet, Student Union Library Building Room with the View, 2200 169th St., Hammond

Thursday

12 p.m. at Tri-Town: St. John Public Library, 9450 Wicker Ave., St. John

2 p.m. at Lake Station City Hall, 1969 Central Ave., Lake Station

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Updated: February 12, 2013 2:15PM



LOWELL — A largely conservative group of about 50 people gathered Thursday at the Lowell-Cedar Lake area forum sponsored by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, to grill the veteran congressman about his position on gun control, foreign aid, immigration, health care and the Illiana Expressway.

“Despite some bumps in the road, I really do believe we have had a very significant increase in cooperation (of elected officials) across Northwest Indiana,” Visclosky said.

The same, he acknowledged, has not been true for Congress, a situation he said he finds frustrating. He said if officials cannot even come together to talk, no common ground can be found. He said the region could serve as an example for Congress.

“Washington can take a big page out of the book of Northwest Indiana when it comes to working together,” Visclosky said.

Frustration has grown among constituents over the lack of cooperation as talks to prevent the federal “fiscal cliff” dragged on until the last hours. Visclosky said he voted with a minority of Democrats who opposed the deal because he does not agree with its terms. He said Congress is borrowing against the financial well-being of future generations in the deal and the additional spending far outweighs any budget cuts, adding $3.9 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

“We have a responsibility to do something,” Visclosky said.

He said officials had known the Bush-era tax cuts were set to expire for two years and did nothing. Action was postponed until after the election.

“That’s a rotten way to run a country and the legislature exacerbated it,” Visclosky said.

Many Americans share that sentiment, with 77 percent of the population saying Washington politics is seriously harming the nation, according to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll conducted mid-December.

Emotions ran high Thursday when the topic turned to gun control. One man, a 63-year-old grandfather who didn’t give his name, fought back tears as he talked about the Sandy Hook tragedy and his fear something like that could happen locally. He said a weapons ban would not prevent someone intent on killing from doing so and urged Visclosky to vote against any control measures.

His comments were greeted by applause from the room.

Byron Gentry of Kouts said he, too, is against any type of gun control measure. Gentry said the issue is not about guns, but about the value of life in society.

“Don’t legislate the symptom,” he said.

Sharon Varga of Cedar Lake said she understands people like to hunt and collect guns but she cannot understand the need for assault weapons. She encouraged Visclosky to support banning assault weapons.

“Who needs an assault weapon? It frightens me there are so many guns out there,” Varga said.

Visclosky said he stands by his voting record on the matter, which includes favorable votes for both the Brady Bill and the Clinton-era assault weapons ban. He said his votes would continue along that line.



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