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Area police against ban

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

As President Obama weighs gun control options, heads of some local law enforcement agencies say they oppose a ban on assault weapons.

“I don’t think a ban is going to accomplish anything. It is not the weapon that is the problem. It is the intent and wickedness of the person involved that is the problem,” Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said.

The ban has been discussed since the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“Whether they have an assault weapon, a shotgun loaded with buckshot or a handgun, or even if they don’t have a weapon, if they are intent on doing something (wrong), they are going to do it,” Perry said.

Contrary to what some may perceive, “an assault rifle does not make you better” or enhance personal skills, Perry said. Even if it is used for home protection, there are no guarantees.

“Just because you have an assault weapon doesn’t mean you are going to win the fight. Usually, by the time you can get it out, you will probably lose the fight. It comes down to skills and maneuverability, and a person who can use a handgun in close combat” may fare just as well when defending their home, Perry said. “Within 15 yards, a handgun is every bit as deadly.”

Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers also opposes a ban.

“I am 100 percent pro Second Amendment, and any efforts to disarm good law-abiding citizens are beyond ridiculous to me,” Rogers said.

Martinsville Police Capt. Eddie Cassady said he does not favor banning assault weapons but does not oppose stricter background checks.

Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith also opposes a ban.

“I am and have always been 100 percent supportive of the Second Amendment, and my position on that will never change,” Smith said. “The only way you can stop a threat that has been put in motion is with greater force, and that has been proven through history and will never change.”

All three agencies have assault weapons for officers’ use.

The rifles are similar to the AR-15, Cassady said.

Perry said the weapons have high-capacity magazines that hold many rounds of fire power, produce a “rapid rate of fire” and can shoot distances of 50 to 200 yards.

“They follow a military design and are specifically designed for killing people, and it is an efficient weapon,” Perry said. “It is meant to be a combat weapon” and is used when an officer is “involved in a combat situation.”

For example, when dealing with an armed suspect, “we are trying to overcome someone” while minimizing the risks to officers, hostages or any innocent people, he said.

He and Smith noted the guns also are sometimes used by hunters.

While similar to AR-styled rifles, weapons used for hunting generally are smaller with “heavier, longer barrels,” Perry said.

Hunters may prefer them for predatory prey such as coyotes and other animals considered varmints, Smith said.

For instance, coyotes “run in, spook and run off. In those cases, you need something that will shoot very quickly,” Perry said.

A possible ban on assault weapons is sparking increased sales of them, especially among law enforcement officers, according to Mark Tosh, president of Town Gun Shop Inc.

“A lot of our civilian customers say ‘maybe’” assault weapons and related equipment will be banned, but the federal and state law enforcement officers visiting his stores in Collinsville and Richmond “say it is going to happen,” and many people “are buying AR-style” weapons, he said.

The reasons for the increased sales are varied, Tosh said.

One type of buyer “is a person who just wants to go out and target shoot. Another is the person who’s got one” and — with discussions of a ban — wants another, he said. The third type are those “who look at it as an investment” and are convinced the prices will continue to increase if there is a ban, he added.

The third type poses the greatest concern to Perry.

“I don’t like the fact that some of these people are buying them for an investment. Once they are sold and resold, you don’t know whose hands they will end up in,” Perry said. “(With an increase in sales) what good is a ban if the market already is flooded with them?”


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