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Gun Control Looks to Be the Next Big Issue to Divide the Country

With the election over, gun control is shaping up to be the next divisive issue facing the country. Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman and some local gun owners weigh in.

After the recent shooting tragedies in Aurora and Newtown, most people in the country agree that gun violence is a problem that needs to be addressed. What they don’t agree on, however, is how that needs to be done. With the White House looking to gun control as a way to solve the problem, and opponents saying some of the president's latest proposals violate the Second Amendment, battle lines are already being drawn.

According to a recent story on NBC News, several sheriffs around the country have already come forward and said they would not enforce laws that they believe are in violation of the Second Amendment.

Sheriff Denny Peyton of Jackson County, Ky., Sheriff Robin Cole of Pine County, Minnesota and two Oregon sheriff’s, Tim Meuller of Linn County and Jim Hensley of Crook County are some who have already said they won’t violate their oath to uphold the Constitution.

Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman has said he is adopting a wait a see attitude until he knows exactly what is coming down the pike.

“Why would anyone play their hand when they don’t even know yet what cards are being dealt,” Chapman said. “There seems to be a belief that being a sheriff is a county constitutional officer and there is some debate on how far the federal government can go to force us to carry out these proposals.”

Unlike a police chief, who is appointed, a sheriff is an elected position. Chapman said he would make a decision on how to proceed once he knew exactly what is asked of him. He did, however, say that he has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. He also said he does believe in the Second Amentment.

“When the hand is dealt, we’ll play it then,” Chapman said.

There is no consensus on how to solve this problem, even among gun owners. Brian Crawford, a Patch blogger who has owned a gun since he was a teenager, supports the proposals put forward by Vice President Joe Biden last week. He said he doesn’t see them as a violation of the Second Amendment.

“I think the package of proposals that came out of Biden's task-force are a good start to sensible gun control without infringing on anyone's Second Amendment rights,” Crawford said. “There really wasn't anything there that I thought went too far, in fact if anything some of the proposals don't go far enough. For instance, I favor a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, but what do we do about those already in circulation?”

Tim Ivey, another Patch blogger who is from Walton County, has completely the opposite viewpoint. He identifies himself as a life-long NRA member, pro gun, pro-concealed carry, hardcore Second Amendment supporter.

“The clear meaning of the Second Amendment to me, the Supreme Court and millions of other people across these United States is that it gives us the "right to keep and bear arms" to protect ourselves against tyranny from the Federal Government as well as the criminal element,” Ivey said. “If we look at this in the correct context, the United States of America was formed to escape the Religious persecution and tyranny of England's King George. Our Forefathers were not only highly intelligent, but very wise forward lookers and thinkers. The validity of the Constitution is timeless for it reflects the deepest convictions and desires of the human soul, Freedom, Liberty, Self Reliance.”

Unlike Crawford, Ivey does not believe in a ban on assault weapons.

“I believe that the restriction on magazine size and an assault weapons ban is unconstitutional based on the fact that it restricts law abiding citizens from being equally armed as the criminal element,” Ivey said. “Criminals will get guns laws or no laws. Many gangs and home invaders are using AK 47's with the 30 round mag. I demand a 30 round mag and a self defense weapon to fight back with. An AR-15 is not an Assault Rifle. AR stands for Armalite Rifle who designed the rifle for the U.S. Military decades ago. It is the Liberals that have labeled it an ‘assault rifle.’ In the hands of the military it is such, but in the hands of law-abiding citizens it is a self defense weapon.”

One area that both Crawford and Ivey do agree, at least somewhat, is the background check. Ivey, however, believes it shouldn’t be as wide as Crawford would like to see it.

“The registration piece is probably the most important. I think all firearms should be registered even if that requires background checks on individuals that currently own unregistered weapons and that their should be stiff penalties for non-compliance,” Crawford said, adding he believed that firearm regulations should be tightened on the state level. “Tighten up carry concealed and open carry laws regarding where weapons can be carried. I especially favor yearly registration and training for those that want to carry in the public space. This isn't the wild west. Guns are extremely dangerous and present a public safety hazard even in the hands of trained professionals.”

While Ivey doesn’t see a problem with background checks, he doesn’t see a need to expand it. He said he believes that placing more restrictions on law abiding gun owners isn’t going to make the criminals any more likely to obey the laws than they do at the moment.

“I don't see a problem with background checks on people who buy guns at stores and gun shows. But I don't think they should delve into the private seller market. How would you enforce that anyway? The problem with the Feds is that if you give em an inch, they want a mile,” Ivey said. “In reference to the mental health issue, you get into doctor/patient confidentiality and I don't believe the Feds should touch that. In reference to the Newtown tragedy, that mother knew her child had mental issues. I believe that even though she was a gun enthusiast, she was irresponsible in teaching her son how to use weapons knowing of his mental instability. She should have had the guns in a safe, out of his reach. Millions of people take medication everyday for mental disorders and are perfectly capable of driving and holding down a job and being good law abiding, responsible citizens. As long as they are capable of this, I don't think they should be refused gun ownership. It is impossible to stop all murders, mass killings, rapes..etc. No one can predict what another human being is going to do. The world we live in is a difficult one. I do not have all of the answers and neither does anyone else. But to penalize the law abiding citizens is clearly not the answer.”

Brian Crawford January 27, 2013 at 02:46 AM
It is important to note that none of the current proposals are unconstitutional. The supreme court recently over turned Washington D.C.'s hand-gun ban, ruling that individuals have the right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. However, the majority opinion written by notoriously conservative Justice Scalia went on to state: "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s (United States vs. Miller) holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons." Under this interpretation military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines would certainly fit the description of " dangerous and unusual weapons" thus a ban on such weapons is clearly Constitutional.

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