Gun solutions 'super-complicated,' locals say

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

President Barack Obama's proposed gun legislation drew a mixed response from Alachua County educators, police and gun dealers Wednesday, but one theme did emerge — society's problems that led to last month's school shootings are complex and so are the solutions.

Kanapaha Middle School Principal Jennie Wise said student safety is of the utmost concern and that a broad approach to making schools safer is needed.

"It's a really complicated issue, and the implications of guns in the wrong hands are frightening," Wise said. "I would love if there was a fix, but I think it's complicated. Mental health, access to our campuses without making kids feel like they are going to school in Alcatraz — it is super-complicated."

Obama is recommending a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. He also is proposing background checks on anyone buying a gun.

Eighth Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone said Wednesday that so many guns are now available that the greater focus should be on mental health efforts to try to prevent mass shootings such as that at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 students and six adults at the school. He also killed his mother and himself.

"It is too late to talk about gun control," Cervone said. "That horse has left the barn — there are too many of them out there. What you need to be talking about is getting a handle on the mental health issues and the people who have access to guns who are identifiably mentally disturbed. I understand both sides of the debate in gun control. If there are laws passed, we will enforce them. But to me, the debate has got to focus on how we identify the mentally ill and keep them from having access to this kind of weaponry."

Gainesville Police Department Officer Ben Tobias, the department's spokesman, said officers here rarely come across suspects with military-style weapons. He added that the typical gun police come across on the street is not fully loaded.

The majority of the guns officers find on suspects have been stolen, Tobias said.

"As far as seeing a military-style rifle with multiple magazines — luckily we have not seen that," Tobias said.

Butch Ford, owner of Sapp's Pawn Gun and Archery in Gainesville, said more people have been buying all kinds of weapons — including military-style guns commonly known as AR-15s — since Obama said after the Sandy Hook incident that he would work toward greater gun control.

Ford said a ban on military weapons could impact his bottom line because people are not buying other kinds of guns, such as hunting rifles, as much as they used to.

"I have sold out of AR-15s and am completely depleted of firearms that people want to buy," Ford said. "If a person is mentally ill and predisposed to kill someone, there is no law that would keep that person from doing that."

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe joined his colleagues on Mayors Against Illegal Guns on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to lobby on gun control.

Lowe said he is concerned about gun violence and he said a comprehensive approach is needed.

"I think the proposals today are very sensible and can be a part of the solution, but not all of the solution," Lowe said. "Other parts would be to focus on mental health and on education."

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