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The Skinny

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GUN FIGHT

Newtown, Conn., is a long way from Tucson, and too many people are already picking apart the particulars of that community's horrific massacre. We don't want to add to that, but we would like to say that our hearts are with those who lost so much last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The slaughter of so many children has reawakened the topic of gun control in Washington. President Barack Obama said in Newtown last week that "if there's even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that's visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try. In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine."

Southern Arizona's U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who was nearly killed after he was shot in the face and leg during the Tucson shooting at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner nearly two years ago, has generally steered clear of calls for new gun legislation, choosing to focus instead on the need for better treatment for the mentally ill.

But Barber took to the pages of The Arizona Republic last Sunday, Dec. 17, to call for restrictions on automatic weapons and extended clips, such as the one that was used by the Tucson shooter.

"I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms—but we must take action to deal with the easy availability of assault weapons and extended magazines," Barber wrote. "We must take action to prevent people who are a danger to themselves and others from getting access to these weapons."

Barber emphasized that new gun laws were only part of any response, saying "we must also recognize that these issues are not the only pieces in a complex problem to which there is no single answer."

The answers aren't easy, either. As of our deadline, the NRA had been silent on its social media in the wake of Sandy Hook and most Republican lawmakers were avoiding the question of whether to enact new gun restrictions.

But you can bet, once the children have been buried, that we'll hear a lot about how the real problem isn't easy access to war-zone firearms, but the liberal culture, the lack of God in the classroom and the violence in video games.


UHLICH: STAYING OUT OF THE KITCHEN

Outgoing state Sen. Frank Antenori took to the airwaves last week to start a rumor that Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich is opening a restaurant in Louisiana.

Appearing on the morning show of Garret Lewis, a poorly informed transplant who runs his mouth on one of Clear Channel's numerous stations, Antenori mocked Uhlich for creating jobs in New Orleans while Tucson has such high unemployment.

"I'm not opening a restaurant in New Orleans and I don't live there or own any property there," says Uhlich, whose second term on the City Council comes to an end in 2013.

Uhlich, who has not yet said whether she'll seek re-election to the Ward 3 seat, has been doing some work in the New Orleans area—but she says she has been doing that for years.

Uhlich heads the Center for Economic Integrity, a nonprofit organization she founded after leaving her job running the Primavera Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping Pima County's homeless.

The Center for Economic Integrity's work, which has included battling payday lenders, mostly occurs in the Southwest.

But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Uhlich was contacted by the philanthropic Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

"They wanted to come up with a strategy so that local people in the Gulf region were hired into jobs as the area rebuilt from the hurricane,"

Uhlich says. "So I have been working in the Gulf region, under the auspices of the nonprofit, since 2005 or 2006."

Uhlich says the main thrust of her Louisiana work is creating nonprofit staffing organizations similar to Primavera Works, which is designed to find job placement for day laborers and other workers. Primavera Works was launched as an alternative to other staffing companies that were hiring people but then charging them fees and otherwise nickel-and-diming them before cashing their checks.

"It's a way to make sure that people who might otherwise not be able to get work can get past whatever barriers there are to get the job," Uhlich says. "In New Orleans, there was real concern that Labor Ready and a lot of other organizations were opening up shop and it was not clear that it would be local residents who would benefit from all the jobs that resulted from the rebuilding."

Uhlich says she's been working with three groups in the Gulf region and "the business that is opening is actually a couple of nonprofit staffing companies modeled after Primavera Works. The good news is that ... they've been open for some time now to serve the disadvantaged workers in the region."

Uhlich was unsure where the rumor about opening a restaurant came from, but she says that one of the nonprofits she works with, Catholic Charities, has been running a nonprofit restaurant for some time.

"I ain't no chef, that's for sure," she says with a laugh.

Antenori, who lost his bid for re-election last month after redistricting put him in a competitive district, started the restaurant rumor with a call to Lewis' show.

He said the call was inspired by hearing Lewis read the bios of council members on the air, including a reference to job creation, "and I called in, jokingly, and said she's doing such a good job of it, she decided to go open up a restaurant in New Orleans and is helping create jobs in New Orleans. It was a sarcastic comment. ... He took it and ran with it and said she's spending more time in New Orleans than in Tucson. She's creating more jobs in New Orleans than she is in Tucson."

Uhlich expects that Lewis is attempting to portray her "as I don't really live here and I'm missing a lot of meetings and not paying attention to Tucson."

Uhlich did miss a recent council meeting, but it was because she was visiting her father in Michigan.

Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, a Republican who has clashed with Antenori in the past, says the outgoing state senator and morning-radio host are barking up the wrong tree in complaining that Uhlich has been missing council meetings.

"Nobody on the council, including the mayor, has any problem at all with Karin's attendance record," Kozachik says. "Everybody has to miss a day from time to time and she is doing an exemplary job of being at the council meetings, participating and providing quality input. So whatever Mr. Lewis and Mr. Antenori are alleging are inventions of their alleged minds."

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