Cops: Gun ban may not be the answer

Published 1:47 am Saturday, January 26, 2013

For Sheriff Grover Smith, the problem with mass gun violence may not be the guns themselves — but the ammunition.

Smith supports a proposed federal ban on large-scale ammunition, as well as stronger background checks for guns, but he said he firmly supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In Escambia County, gun permits are issued by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department and include background checks on each individual applying for the permit.

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Smith said those background checks would continue and any changes in laws would be followed by the department.

“We certainly need to keep guns out of the hand of dangerous people,” Smith said. “Criminals and those with mental issues don’t need to have guns. But, I will fight to my last breath to make sure no one takes guns away from people who work hard and want to protect their families.”

Proposals laid out this month by President Barack Obama include background checks for all gun sales including private and public sellers, limits on ammunition magazines and a reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons. Obama also signed executive orders that would strengthen communication among law enforcement agencies.

“We really need to think more about the magazines for weapons than the weapons,” Smith said. “I don’t have a problem with someone who has an assault weapon, but I do have a problem with someone who has 50 of them. Also, A skilled person can change magazines in weapons quickly. My question is does a person really need a 30- or 40-shot clip? An assault weapon ban really wouldn’t accomplish anything.”

Brewton Police Chief Monte McGougin said governing the use, sale and issuance of guns is certainly needed, but to what extent is the question.

“I feel that gun use and sales need to be governed in some form,” McGougin said. “It’s a touchy subject for U.S. citizens. You’re either for it or against it.”

Assault weapons being banned is one area McGougin feels some governing is needed.

“The average citizens can purchase an assault weapon right now,” McGougin said. “I don’t believe there is a need for a private individual to own an assault weapon. I don’t like to use the word ‘ban’ when it comes to any kind of weapon. But, assault-style weapons need to be kept to law enforcement and military if at all.”

McGougin said he thought the need for stronger, deeper background checks are certainly warranted through any department.

“Those regulations are meant to keep guns out of the hands of felons,” McGougin said. “Those people who have been convicted of a felony know from day one they cannot have a gun. They made that choice. I also believe there is no purpose for a mental person to ever have a gun at all.”

Smith said some changes in the gun law are needed, but some proposed changes would make little sense in a real-life situation.

“One piece of legislation has been introduced to have one teacher at a school be armed,” Smith said. “That’s a scary thought. I think there are some people in this that are grabbing for the limelight by taking they took decisive action. I think we need to go slow about this and not jump right up and starting passing laws.”

In the weeks since the Newtown, Conn., shooting, area school systems have upgraded protective action at schools in the area.

At Brewton Elementary and Middle schools, armed resource officers have been put on each campus. A resource officer had already been on the T.R. Miller High School Campus for the past few years.

In the Escambia County School System, area law enforcement agencies — including the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department — have joined as partners with resource officers already in place in the system to upgrade protection for school students, faculty and staff.

“It’s our duty to uphold and enforce the laws of this state and this country,” Smith said. “I can’t pick and choose which laws we will enforce. When changes are made, we will be enforcing those changes as dictated by our job.”