PICKENS COUNTY—A tragic shooting that cost 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in December ignited a fiery debate on gun control that has reached Pickens County.
Recent talk of banning assault rifles and extended ammunition magazines has fueled reaction from many local residents.
“I am a strong believer in the second amendment,” Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark said. “Gun control in Pickens County needs to be controlled by the citizens and it needs to follow the current laws that provide everybody who can legally obtain a gun with that opportunity.”
Pickens County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiger is calling for reasonable regulations.
“We should have reasonable regulations,” Kiger said. “The idea of having an assault-style weapon or something that has 100 rounds is just ridiculous. I understand the idea of people wanting them and needing them, but there are some reasonable rules and regulations that can be enforced that are going to help.”
Kiger said the issue is not about taking guns away, but creating a safer environment for citizens.
“The idea that the government is trying to take your guns is silly because that’s not happening,” Kiger said. “I think you can own weapons, but it needs to be reasonable. The issue, right now, is very divisive. Money plays a big role in that, but it’s just the divisive nature of politics in general. Almost everything you throw out there, people are taking a blue or red side.”
Annette Powell, owner of Foothills Gun and Pawn in Pickens, said an assault rifle ban would hurt business.
“I do sell assault rifles, and I won’t be able to sell them if this happens,” Powell said. “I won’t be out of business by any means, but it will still hurt.”
Powell said no matter what is done, it will be hard to curb criminal violence.
“I don’t think any law that goes into effect can stop what happened,” Powell said, referring to the Sandy Hook shooting. “I don’t think you can stop selling one type of gun to fix that problem. I don’t know what fixes the problem, but I don’t think that will work.”
Clark said the raging debate will soon come to an end, but certain steps need to be taken.
“The debate over gun control will die down in a couple of months in my opinion,” Clark said. “The one thing that we do have to start to look at is making the process easier to get mentally ill people on the list of those banned from buying guns.”
“If you meet all the legal qualifications you should not be barred from getting a gun, but if you demonstrate criminal behavior or a mental illness, as we’ve seen across the nations, we have to have the ability to ban them from buying guns,” Clark continued.
Another step could be adding guns for protection in schools. Whether it be in the form of Concealed Weapons Permit carriers or Student Resource Officers, Kiger believes it would be a mistake.
“The idea of being able to carry guns in schools is ridiculous,” Kiger said. “How could anybody believe that you are safer if your kids are around weapons in school.”
“If you’re a licensed CWP holder, as long as the school knows you have a weapon, I don’t have a problem with it,” Powell said. “There were six adults that were killed at Sandy Hook. If any one of them would have had a weapon it could have been a different story.”
Pickens County resident and CWP class instructor Lee Allen added that training should be increased for anyone carrying a weapon in schools.
“If you’re going to have a resource officer, teacher or principal at the school that is going to be allowed to carry a gun just by the fact that they have a CWP, they should at least go to a law enforcement center to be trained,” Allen said. “The basic requirements for a CWP might not be enough for carrying guns in schools.”
As for now, Kiger said an executive order issued by the President may be the only way to go.
“Right now, (an executive order) is the only step that is going to do anything,” Kiger said. “If you have one side that is completely unwilling to make any steps, there’s nowhere for it to go. Right now executive orders are the only option.”