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Portage pastor urges city council to take action against gun violence

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Rev. Michael Cooper presents a number of gun-related proposals during the June 7 Portage City Council meeting.

A Portage faith leader is calling on the city council to take steps to reduce gun violence.

"The people of Portage elected you to act, and in the face of this growing pandemic of gun violence across our nation, I am asking you to act, before our schools get added to the list of tragedies," Rev. Michael Cooper said during last week's council meeting.

Cooper, who's also a former Green Party candidate for the city council, wants members to pass a resolution supporting the end of assault rifle sales in Indiana and to close three licensed gun shops operating out of homes.

"If you want to act, then shut them down because people don't need to be picking up guns on the same streets where our youth are out playing," he said.

Cooper also condemned the Portage Fraternal Order of Police for raffling off an AR-15 rifle last fall, "the same type of weapon used, once again, in a school -- this time to kill 19 third and fourth graders and two of their teachers," Cooper said, referring to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

He then asked council member Scott Williams to take the $1,100 campaign contribution he got from the FOP and donate that money to address mental health needs among the city's youth. Cooper also urged the council to allocate funds for a gun buyback program, even if that means a legal battle with the Indiana General Assembly.

Portage officials did not respond to Cooper's requests during last week's council meeting.