Sheriff, businessman: Stricter gun laws not the answer

While the argument over gun control has once again taken center stage in Washington, the sentiment for stricter guns laws doesn’t seem as strong in West Alabama.

“I have mixed feelings,” said Marengo Sheriff Richard Bates. “In the (Newtown) Connecticut shooting, the woman who owned the guns had obtained them through the legal process, but I understand her son – the one who actually used the guns – had some kind of mental illness.”

The Sheriff offered a different perspective to the gun control issue – citing the lawful possession of guns as a likely deterrent to crime. “I would love to see guns in each home,” the sheriff said. “If criminals know there is no gun in the home, they are more likely to break into and rob that home. I don’t have a problem with the public’s access to guns, as long as they are obtained legally.”

Bates said one possible answer to gun violence is harsher punishments for criminals who obtain guns illegally or use firearms in the commission of a crime. He added that few crimes in Marengo County’s recent past have involved weapons.

“We had, if I recall, one murder, a couple of suicides and an attempted suicide in the county last year,” he said. “That’s four incidents involving guns. Most of the crimes here are burglaries and break-ins that don’t involve firearms. The negative impact of guns here is minimal.”

He added that the Sheriff’s Department hopes to offer training courses for the proper use of handguns at the county shooting range when warmer weather arrives.

Ronnie Willingham, owner of Willingham’s Sports in Demopolis, said rhetorically that sales of firearms and ammunition have increased “a thousand-fold,” since the Connecticut shooting incident and the White House’s renewed push for gun control. “Gun manufacturers can’t keep up with the orders since Obama’s (inaugural) speech Monday,” he said.

Willingham believes the notion that stricter gun laws will reduce violence is flawed logic. “Timothy McVeigh blew up a building and killed 160 people with fertilizer,” Willingham added. “Are we going to outlaw fertilizer?” He noted that gun control measures passed during the Clinton Administration were supposed to curb gun violence and illegal drug activity, but did neither.

“Drugs have been illegal for how long?” he asked. “And yet we have drug dealers selling drugs to our kids on practically every street in America.

“We’ve got to raise our kids right,” Willingham offered as part of the solution to gun violence. “Mammas and Daddies are not taking kids to church anymore, and the kids are growing up on the street. Then they’re watching violence on primetime TV and in video games.”

Willingham suggested that “these same liberals who want big government to fix everything and who want to take guns away” are the very ones running the television networks where gun violence is rampant.

“You can point your finger at guns if you want to,” he said, “but it’s not the guns.”