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The fatal shootings of 30 students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on April 16 reignited the debate on gun control. In a statement on the shootings, Trenton, N.J., Mayor and President of the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors Douglas Palmer called for the federal government to work with mayors and police chiefs to tighten gun laws.
American City & County asked the readers of a Special Edition (https://americancityandcounty.com/localgovernmentupdate/) of its weekly e-mail newsletter if they think city and county governments should do more to control the sale of guns in their jurisdictions, and, if so, what should they do? Below are some of the responses.
“Any law written locally and at the state level would need to be thoroughly researched in legal case history and constitutional law. This is a Constitutional issue, not a local or state issue. Any attempts at infringing legal gun owners’ rights must be framed in a Constitutional light. Any armed citizen could have stopped the mass murders at VT. The problem was that only the criminal had a weapon.”
Ron Neal, structures manager, Omaha, Neb.
“[The government] should promote honest people to have concealed carry permits and encourage gun rights.”
Larry Goldman, building official/fire marshal, Sanford, Fla.
“In Florida, we have found that more guns [equals] less crime. Since Florida established [the] ‘right to carry’ [law], crime has gone down. So called gun-free zones end up being more dangerous as the criminal knows it is an area where they won’t encounter an armed, law-abiding citizen.”
Jim Naugle, mayor, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“I feel that local, state and federal governments should do more to control the selling of guns. I feel sorry for those people that want the U.S. to permanently stay in a ‘wild, wild West’ state [of mind], but they are endangering all of us with that philosophy.”
Mary Robinson, director, Morris University Center, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Ill.
“If a waiting period and background check had been in place, Cho Seung Hui would not have been able to purchase a firearm. I have never understood why law-abiding Americans would care if they have to wait a few days in order for a thorough background check to occur. That is what is needed. That would have prevented the horrific carnage at Virginia Tech.”
Rush Clinkscales, engineer, Edmond, Okla.
“Gun control isn’t working in Iraq; why do [people] think it will work here? Men will find a way to cause destruction as long as we continue to ignore the root causes. All the warning signals were there [in the Virginia Tech case], but no one would act on them. I know it is a difficult line to draw, but if we as a country do not intervene early these events will continue, with or without gun control.”
Walt Le Couteur, business administrator, Bread Of Life Mission, Seattle
“Local governments absolutely should not promote gun control. The last thing we need to do is regulate further the most sure method individuals have to protect their lives, their families and their property. Self protection and self defense should be promoted [to] put some fear in the minds of the nuts who think of committing such acts of terror.”
Larry South, town manager, Hillsville, Va.
“We do not enforce the current gun control laws; adding to or making them tougher is not going to help. One lone insane guy caused the problem, and he should have not had a gun under the law.”
Charlie Trelease, president, Tiger Equipment, Rocky Mount, Va.
“Do [people] honestly think that increased gun control will reduce violent crimes? Gun control only takes the guns away from law-abiding citizens, while the people most likely to commit violent crimes continue without fear of retaliation. This has been proven in numerous states where the gun controls have been limited. Crime actually goes down when the criminal doesn’t know whether the intended victim is armed. The terrible actions of a sick person, such as what happened this week in Virginia, would not be stopped by gun control. And shame on those who would use this tragedy to further their own political agenda to remove the second amendment rights of every citizen!”
Andrea Bowers, city treasurer, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“The gun control laws we have now are not enforced. Less gun control on this campus would have in all likelihood prevented the killer from killing as many people as he did. An unarmed citizen has little defense against a suicidal killer.”
Lyle Fetterly, director of facilities, Lubbock County, Texas
“I don’t believe in more gun controls. Schools and universities, including Virginia Tech, already have rules [prohibiting] guns on campus. More laws will be very difficult to enforce and will more likely affect law-abiding citizens than the criminals. [Enacting] more gun laws is a knee jerk reaction to a people problem. In the Virginia Tech case, there were a lot of evil/scary behavioral indicators [by] the shooter that went unchecked. This is the area that we should spend our time and money [on] to stop these terrible happenings.”
Dave Czarnecki, customer service coordinator, Wisconsin Public Service
“I am absolutely opposed to prohibiting law-abiding citizens from obtaining firearms. One thing that was [made] clearly evident by the horrific events at Virginia Tech is that the police are unable to protect every person [at all times]. It is a God-given right to defend one’s self. In our free society, evil people with the intent on doing harm will find ways to do so. Timothy McVey used fertilizer and diesel fuel. 9-11 hijackers used box cutters. In my community, more than one person has been attacked and killed with a hammer. So the questions to be asked should be, ‘How has our society become so warped? Is it the media, video games, illegal drugs, political correctness, or other socioeconomic conditions?’ The cliché rings true: guns (or hammers, knives, baseball bats, fertilizer, cars, etc.) do not kill people, people kill people.”
Robert Dempsey, assistant fire chief, Elyria, Ohio
“Gun control laws will not stop this type of thing. Someone in Cho’s mental state will find a way. Take all the guns away and he will do an [Oklahoma] City. Which is worse?”
Richard Henry, district manager, South Utah Valley Solid Waste District, Spanish Fork, Utah
“I am strictly opposed to gun control. The right to bear arms is a Constitutional right that should not be taken away under any circumstances. I believe we need education programs that will teach people not to be bullies and to treat each other with respect. We need to teach our kids the value of life to counteract the information that Hollywood sends out in movies and TV programming. People must learn how to communicate and use differing opinions without taking another’s opinion as a personal attack.”
Clifton Beecher, public works director, Franklin, Ky.
“No, I do not think this is an issue for local governments. It should always be a state issue on use and carry laws, and anything that interprets Second Amendment issues should come from the [federal government]. I have seen too much abuse of federally guaranteed rights by local authorities who have these vague and, frankly, illegal ordinances on the books. Many of these have been cleared up over the years through legal decisions, and I would not want to see a whole new crop of them come up again.”
Paul Raczkowski, senior projects manager, Flagstaff, Ariz., Utilities Department
“The question about more gun control and local government involvement does not address the issue that if guns were completely unavailable, the perpetrator Cho Seung-Hui, in this case, could have made some sort of other device — gas or explosive — and harmed people without the use of firearms. As can be seen on the tapes Cho Seung-Hui released, he was obviously deeply disturbed. He had been picked up by the police on two complaints and had been required, by the courts, to attend counseling. The fault is with the criminal justice system in that they failed to stop an obviously disturbed individual.”
Paul Johnson, president, Advanced Telemetry Systems International, Escondido, Calif.
“I don’t believe local governments should do more to restrict gun rights. To the contrary, I believe that if persons licensed to carry concealed weapons were allowed to carry on school grounds, some school shootings might be thwarted sooner, or perhaps avoided altogether.”
Stephen Furman, assistant public works director, Santa Rosa County, Fla.
“Why is there such an outcry to control guns when some idiot kills using a gun and nothing about car control when some idiot kills using a car? What we need is gun education [that is similar to] driver education. We need more people involved in curing the problem, not running around controlling guns. Like the saying says, ‘If you criminalize guns, only criminals will have them.’ Obviously we don’t want or need that segment of the population with that type of power over us.”
Kevin Whitcomb, facilities and grounds coordinator, St Helens, Ore.
“We have enough control of guns, [and] those cities that have the most gun control have the most murders. The [United Nations] wants no one to have guns except government officials, [but] what happens when the officials are corrupt? See what is happening in Africa.”
Goris Passchier, Jenison, Miss.
“How about the universities spur a debate among themselves for better security directors and better security on campus? Their ‘It won’t happen here’ syndrome does not cut it any more.”
Steve Valent, president, Aggressive Security Consultants, Long Pond, Pa.
“I’m not sure how much gun control legislation can happen at the local level due to federal and state statutes. I’m not an attorney, so I might be completely off the wall on this. I do wonder though whether local legislation can be used to better regulate ammunition sales. I don’t know what regulations are already used, but perhaps there could be some sort of more stringent locally mandated regulatory efforts at that end?”
Nancy Reger, data manager, Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission,Cols, Ohio
“I think the answer is simple — we do not need more gun laws! Just enforce the ones already on the books, federal, state and local, and just don’t give offenders a slap on the wrist and turn them lose again. Give them some serious fines and jail time. We see this with DUI offenders all the time, they just keep on coming back, getting behind the wheel again and again until they kill someone. Just read the papers. Too many whimpy judges who let these [gun and alcohol violations] offenders walk right out the door to do more damage to society. We have plenty of laws — just enforce them!”
F. J. Schryner, Van Buren, Mo.
“I believe that it is unwise to cede authority for more gun control to local governing bodies. To my knowledge, elected officials at every level of government take oaths to abide and uphold the Constitution of the United States, and yet so many cities have done their best to violate the tenets of the Second Amendment by banning otherwise lawful possession of weapons. Efforts to reduce crime through these local ordinances have been largely unsuccessful because [officials] fail to enforce existing gun laws, and they fail to account for the fact that the lawless among us have no regard for, or intent to follow, new gun laws. If broader local control over firearms were an effective crime fighting measure, the District of Columbia would be the safest city in the United States. We all know it is nearly the complete opposite!”
Pete Kirby, retired public safety communications supervisor, Fairfax County Police Department, Annandale, Va.
“No I do not think that city and county governments should do more to infringe on our Second Amendment right given to us by our forefathers.
I also think that schools, colleges and other learning institutions should allow legally licensed persons to carry their properly licensed and legal weapon (concealed) on the school or institutions grounds. Pilots are now flying armed, and we now have air marshals on many flights without incident. Why not in our schools and colleges?”
Paul Llobell, president, Giant Marketing Group, Great River N.Y.