Debate over firearms ignites nationally and locally

  • Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 12:09 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:22 a.m.

In the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and President Barack Obama’s remarks that he would use “whatever power this office holds” to curtail violence against schoolchildren, the fiery debate over firearms has once again been ignited.

With 20 elementary school children and six adults left dead in Connecticut at the hands of an assailant bearing an assault rifle, two semi-automatic handguns and a great amount of ammunition, calls for tighter regulation of those items are being heard nationally and locally.

“Nobody is talking about taking away Second Amendment rights, but you have to be realistic,” said Harold A. Crawford Jr., chairman of the Aiken County Democratic Party.

However, the Democrat fears that the power which the National Rifle Association wields as a lobbying group has legislators “buffaloed,” or baffled, and may make open and honest debate difficult.

Crawford drew a distinct line between individuals who are NRA members and the lobbying entity.

He suggested that the 4 million-member gun rights group is an unyielding behemoth which legislators do not have the courage to stand up to.

While many shout for change, proud gun owners, outdoor sportsmen and civil libertarians are, with equal volume, looking for their right to bear arms to be protected.

They are demanding that their rights not be trampled because certain individuals perpetrate violent crimes using, what they see as, a specific tool.

In a statement on the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Victor Kocher of the South Carolina Libertarian Party called for teachers and school officials to be educated, certified and armed with concealed weapons.

“No one is better prepared and positioned to protect our children than the very people who have devoted their lives to our children’s care and education,” Kocher said.

The loud debate has seen those looking to own assault rifles, or modern sporting rifles (MSR), clamoring for those currently available.

In Aiken, Stephanie Scott, who owns The Gun Rack of Aiken with her husband, said they are receiving significantly more calls since the events in Newtown, Conn.

Scott and staff reported a 200 to 300 percent increase in calls from those interested in MSRs and items for home protection, such as handguns.

As those on one side of the debate look to fortify their defense, the offense of those who want tighter controls has focused on specific weaponry and who should be allowed to possess it.

“There needs to be a realistic look at a comprehensive background check to make sure that person is responsible enough to own a firearm,” Crawford said. Adding that the debate should be about background checks and tightening controls on semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

“A hunter does not need a 30-round magazine to hunt dear, bear or anything else,” he said. “I think any hunter worth their salt should not need this.”

With more than two decades of law enforcement experience behind him, Crawford believes those weapons designed for tactical use by the armed forces and police should remain in their skilled hands.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham disagreed with the idea of a ban and the effectiveness of any such legislation.

“I just don’t know what government can do to fix this,” Graham said Monday. “I don’t think (an assault weapons ban) fixes the problem, because you’ve got 24 million guns out there already.”

Graham added that he thought it would make more sense to create a commission to look at the broader issue of violence in the United States.

The sheer numbers of firearms circulating in the United States caused Crawford to state there was a “firepower imbalance.”

“Some people have an awful lot of weapons. We need to take a look at who has the weapons and how they go about getting them,” Crawford said, adding that exceptions to laws at gun shows “needs to be curtailed.”

Despite many objections, suppliers of firearms are struggling to meet the demand of their customer base, according to Scott.

She fears that the president may institute a ban “with a flick and one little executive order.”

Sales have been brisk at several Aiken area gunsmiths and firearms retailers.

Carolina Outdoors of Aiken and Scott reported that sales jumped after Obama won a second term as president, just as they did when he was first elected in 2008.

Now, this second jump in sales sees demand significantly outpacing supply.

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