Gun-related issues prompt opinions

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The national gun control debate has reached Southwest Missouri with the airing of opinions on gun clip capacities, mental health issues and whether prohibiting members of the public from owning military rifles would lead to broader restrictions.

State Rep. Randy Pike, R-Adrian, is co-sponsoring Bethany Republican Rep. Casey Guernsey's House Bill 170, which holds that Missourians' rights to carry firearms and hunt should not be limited by any new federal laws or regulations. "I'm totally in belief of that purpose," said Pike.

He explained that Attorney General Chris Koster of Jefferson City could go to court to defend HB 170 as supportive of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "The attorney general has made the statement that the Second Amendment is well-received in Missouri," he said.

"I don't think there will be any opposition here with so many members in the House and Senate who believe in it. There hasn't been much said this week in the hearings and committees. We're just now getting started and there should be a lot more talk about it."

Bethany is in Harrison County on the northwest part of the state.

Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is a co-sponsor of Williamstown Republican Sen. Brian Munzlinger's Senate Bill 150 to render unenforceable any new federal law or presidential executive order that bans the possession of semi-automatic firearms. The proposal would make it a felony in Missouri to attempt to enforce a law or order that the state had declared unenforceable.

"If we pass legislation, it needs to be closely tied to the Second and 10th Amendments," Emery said. "It's our duty as elected officials to defend our constitution against those acts of government which are offensive to it.

"Throughout his administration, we have seen that President Obama sees firearms in the hands of the general public as a threat to government, which is exactly the reason our founders protected that right. They didn't want government to be the only ones with guns."

Williamstown is in Lewis County in Northeast Missouri. The 10th Amendment says powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution or prohibited to the states "are reserved to the states or people," according to references.

Vernon County Democratic Chairman Paul Sprenkle of Sheldon stated his support "for a ban on assault weapons.

"There is no need by me or anyone else for assault weapons," Sprenkle said Monday. "Those are military-type weapons and their only purpose is for mass killing. I have a shotgun and that's all I own.

"I'm totally for the right to own a gun but not something that is a mass destruction-type weapon. If you're going deer hunting and you can't hit it in two shots, you're a poor marksman."

County Republican Chairman Jerry Wadel of Richards said there are some changes that he might support. "Some proposals might be acceptable such as tightening up background checks to make sure people who have mental problems of some sort or another don't have access to guns," Wadel said.

"You could make the argument that limiting the amount of ammunition that can be put into a gun might be acceptable. But as far as restricting in any way the right to own guns of any kind, I would be against that.

"Part of the reason is along the lines of the slippery slope argument. If you start restricting the ownership of certain types of weapons, someone will point out that another weapon is very similar to the AR-15. Just by incremental restrictions on gun ownership over a period of time, you may ultimately lose a whole class of weapons. There'd be no real stopping place."

In a news release, U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, said the Dec. 14 murders of 20 schoolchildren and six adults by a deranged man in Newtown, Conn., "was a horrifically violent act, but rash gun control legislation will not keep our children safer.

"Many of President Obama's proposals simply act to restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect their families," Hartzler said. "Proposals have merit that focus on enforcing our current laws, requiring federal agencies to provide information on criminals to the FBI's background check database and giving states the necessary flexibility to protect our children.

"Additionally, we must have a meaningful conversation about mental health issues and other societal contributors to violent behavior rather than simplistically attacking the tool used by criminals."

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