President proposes gun control measures

Published: Thu, January 17, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Ashley Luthern

and David Skolnick


Reactions to sweeping gun control laws proposed Wednesday by President Barack Obama varied among local gun owners and lawmakers.

“I own guns. I have no intention of shooting anybody. ... This does nothing more than regulate me, rather than criminals,” said Mike Miller, spokesman for Miller Rod & Gun Inc. in Struthers,

Miller said the proposals are based on emotion rather than analysis following the massacre of elementary school students and teachers in Newtown, Conn., last month.

“I cried like everyone else. ... But these changes are not going to save lives,” Miller said.

Some lawmakers disagreed. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13th, called Obama’s measures “reasonable proposals.”

“We must do all we can to prevent these tragic mass shootings and deaths that happen every day due to gun violence,” Ryan said. “It will take a comprehensive approach that also addresses the core causes of violence in our society at large. This is a very positive first step.”

Obama also called for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.

That’s welcome news to some local school districts.

Richard Weaver, president of the Poland school board, said having a school-resource officer is a priority for the board, which recently agreed to allow a township officer to provide security in all school buildings at no cost to the district.

“I think it’s great and it will be interesting to see how it’s determined what schools get money,” Weaver said.

Children should be at the center of the current public-safety dialogue, said freshman U.S. Rep. David Joyce of Russell, R-14th.

“It’s time we have a national conversation on public safety focused on the question of how we best protect our children,” he said.

Joyce spent 23 years as Geauga County prosecutor before being elected to a U.S. House seat that includes the upper portion of Trumbull County.

Pointing to that experience as a prosecutor, Joyce said, “I saw first-hand the tragic effects of when certain individuals slip through our mental health system and therefore believe it’s crucial that we address this as both a public safety and mental health issue. That said, we cannot let recent tragedies be an excuse for groups to either sell more guns or infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

Miller said he does agree that if someone has a documented mental illness, it should be recorded with National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but he strongly disagrees with the proposed assault-weapons ban.

“It didn’t work. Why re-instate a failed law? They were hoping to curb violence, and it did nothing of the sort,” Miller said. “Half a million American soldiers can carry [assault weapons] to protect you and your freedoms and liberties, but it’s not OK for you to own it to protect your freedom and liberties?”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, whose district includes all of Columbiana County and the southern portion of Mahoning County, said he will “not support any legislation or executive action that seek to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Johnson called the Sandy Hook incident “a human tragedy. I support efforts that will improve the identification, diagnosis and treatment of individuals who face serious mental-health challenges.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said: “I had hoped the president would look to address the root causes of senseless acts of violence and work with Congress to develop a comprehensive plan to lessen the likelihood of these kinds of tragic incidents in the future. Unfortunately, however, it appears the president has chosen to act unilaterally wherever he can and focus on new, unproven gun bans which would undermine the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

One of the president’s executive orders is: “Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.”

It was the most noticeable directive to Miller, because, he says, that type of campaign already exists.

“It’s called the NRA,” he said, referring to the National Rifle Association.

“Education is the key to all safety,” he added, noting that the NRA provides training, classes and other materials to promote gun safety.

But U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said with the directives, Obama “is taking long-overdue action on efforts that improve background checks, ensure more federal coordination, and improve school safety.”

Now it’s time for Congress to take it further, Brown said, including a renewal of “the assault-weapons ban, a common-sense effort to prevent the proliferation of deadly, high-powered weapons, and close the gun-show loophole that prevents background checks from being conducted” there.

Lawmakers also should work to reduce the stigma of mental-health treatment and make it accessible to those who need it, he said.

Most Americans “support enacting common-sense reforms that will keep our children safe from gun violence,” Brown said.

Meanwhile, gun sales keep climbing. Miller said guns that used to cost $1,300 wholesale are now $2,400. Many stores are limiting how many boxes of ammunition customers can purchase.

“People are literally selling extra cars to buy a gun before the price goes up again or they can’t get them, and buy high-capacity magazines. The black market will follow, and it will turn into another criminal activity,” Miller said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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