Smith County Sheriff weighs in on new gun control proposals

EAST TEXAS (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - One East Texas lawman Wednesday described President Obama's proposals for weapons control as either unenforceable or simply duplicates of existing restrictions.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, a retired agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he agrees that more needs to be done to keep guns away from criminals or those with mental issues.

However, Smith said law-abiding people should be able to purchase what some have defined as assault weapons.

The AR-15, used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last month, is considered an assault weapon.

"The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms, but it does not stipulate or give the government the right to dictate what type of guns we can or cannot own," Smith said. "It's not the firearm, but instead the individual that we need to focus on."

Smith said he is against a national registration of firearms owners, except those who have been licensed to have machine guns and silencers.

However, Smith said that in his 35 years of law enforcement, he has never worked a case where a legally purchased silencer or machine gun was used in a crime.

Smith said a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines could not be enforced because law enforcement would not know if the gun or magazine was bought before the ban was enacted.

"What happens is you have law enforcement out there working these cases and spending a lot of time to do so, and then you can't prove when it was purchased," he said.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting gun sales have reportedly been at an all-time high across the nation, and some stores in East Texas have sold out of certain ammunition.

According to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI, there were 239,956 background checks for people wanting to purchase firearms in Texas last month. In December 2011, that number was 154,482; it was 102,476 in December 2007; and 84,467 in December 2002.

Texas was not the leader among states requiring background checks last month. Kentucky led the 50 states with 260,207 checks in December.

Overall in the United States there were 2.8 million background checks conducted by NICS.

Clay Alexander, ATF resident agent in charge in Tyler, said there is no national data base that shows how many guns are sold each year.

Alexander explained that even the NICS forms used by dealers and retailers stay in the possession of the stores and do not get turned over to the government.

Only when a store is audited is a sampling done, and even then, Alexander said, no information is written down by federal agents.

"Under current laws dealers do not have to turn over their records. The only way we might have an idea of how many firearms are sold is if the distributors give that information," he said.


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