110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Al Everson
posted Dec 28, 2012 - 12:20:10pm
It happens every time there is a shooting spree with multiple victims: another round of debate about gun control, with rhetoric growing intense as law-abiding firearms owners come into the crossfire.
Newtown, Conn., is the latest locale whose name will be linked with violent death, along with Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Texas, and Aurora, Colo.
“I think of the little children, four of my own and grandchildren,” said Dr. T. Wayne Bailey, longtime professor of political science at Stetson University. “If that can’t get to a human being, I don’t know what will.”
Is more stringent regulation of gun sales the silver bullet that will prevent slaughters? The Dec. 14 Newtown murders of 20 young children and six adults have revived the debate.
“It’s going to get serious,” Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said.
“Gun control” is a catchall term that means different things to different people, ranging from
Proposed regulations range from longer waiting times and deeper background investigations for would-be purchasers, to outlawing certain types of guns, often referred to as assault weapons.
Would gun control really work?
“No, I do not believe it would. All you would do is open up a black market for criminals,” Sheriff Johnson said.
The sheriff, whose career in law enforcement spans more than four decades, said another element is often missing in the debate about how to head off shooting rampages.
“We need more money put into the mental-health system, so that individuals can get help,” he said.
John Gregory, a DeLeon Springs resident, generally opposes new gun-control measures.
“We’ve got enough laws on the books,” said Gregory, a hunter and member of the National Rifle Association. “Some people don’t have any business with a gun. We need to use the laws that we have and somehow identify the nuts.”
Volusia County Circuit Judge James Clayton also likes to hunt.
“I just hope they take a well-thought-out and measured view of how this came about, without a knee-jerk reaction against firearms,” Clayton said.
Bailey, on the other hand, favors some new restrictions, plus a new emphasis on helping people in mental turmoil.
“I’ve followed this issue over a number of years, and the unfortunate thing is gun control has become a cliché. You’re either fur ’em or agin’ ’em. The redeeming point is we’re trying to discuss the issues and strive to find areas of common agreement after the Newtown tragedy,” he told The Beacon. “We’re beginning to talk about, not the ideology, but the real issues, but the way we treat mentally ill people.”
A DeLand gun collector said he, also, would like to see a balanced approach.
“I shoot, and I shoot competitively,” Ken Goldberg said. “I think that it’s a very complex problem, and there’s a lot of knee-jerk answers out there, and I think it’s going to be hard to find a solution if [New York City] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg is the spokesman for it. Rather, I think a lot about the conflict or concerns with regard to regulating firearms. There’s a lot of firearms regulation. There’s a lot of studies to show that the people who have concealed-weapons licenses are law-abiding.”
Goldberg, too, called for more attention to the mental health of people who want to own guns. He also questioned the policy of “deinstitutionalizing” people with acute mental disorders, allowing them to try to find their places in mainstream society.
“A disturbed person walked into a school,” Goldberg said. “Even if you have good health insurance, it’s still difficult to get good-quality mental-health care. It should be as easy as going to Walgreens to get a flu shot. ... Mental health — that’s 75 percent of the problem.”
Maybe, too, Goldberg said, armed security guards and surveillance cameras in schools would deter deranged killers.
“Let’s put cameras in the classrooms. Let’s have security guards monitoring them,” he said.
The Newtown shootings and the new demands for tougher gun laws have spurred business for local gun dealers.
“We sold six guns today,” said Nick Czerok, owner of 2nd Amendment Firearms in Downtown DeLand, on Dec. 18. “We sold four on Saturday.”
Each of the buyers must undergo an instant-check with the FBI crime-information database.
At this writing, not all of the sales at 2nd Amendment Firearms are final, because of Florida’s minimum waiting period of three business days for the purchase of a handgun if you don’t have a concealed-weapons permit.
“If you come in and want to buy a handgun, you can’t pick it up today,” Czerok said.
Another DeLand gun dealer, Jeff Dill, said business has been good.
“Unbelievable. Tremendous amount. The clientele is very concerned that we’re going to lose our Second Amendment rights,” said Dill, owner of Stone Mountain Jewelers.
Asked Dec. 19 how many guns he and his staff have sold in recent days, Dill replied, “Maybe 30, just since we opened yesterday morning. Saturday, we were covered up.”
Most of the weapons were purchased in the wake of the Newtown shootings, he said.
Lewis Long, a retired military officer who lives in West Volusia, said he feels hopeful about the task set before Vice President Joe Biden by President Barack Obama, to come up with concrete suggestions regarding guns before Inauguration Day.
“We don’t need the kind of guns we find on the street,” Long said. “Traditionally, we had rifles to hunt with, but none of this stuff [such as assault rifles] you find now.”
Long said gun ownership is one thing, but he cannot find a practical purpose to have some of the available weapons on the market.
“What kind of weapons do you need to go hunting?” Long asked. “What kind do you need to defend yourself? ... I mean are you going to put a Gatling gun in the door?”
The greater problem, though, is the devaluing of human life, and weapons availability. Hundreds of years ago, Long said, based on the Second Amendment, if the people of the United States needed to bear arms, they went to arsenals.
“They went and got their weapons,” Long said. “And, not everybody owned one.”
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