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Sorting out gun control news from around the country

January 15, 2013 at 12:53 PM

The Associated Press

Obama weighing executive action on guns


WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing powerful opposition to sweeping gun regulations, President Barack Obama is weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone, congressional officials said. But the scope of such measures is limited.

The steps could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal background check database, striking limits on federal research into gun use, ordering tougher penalties against gun trafficking, and giving schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Obama will unveil his proposals Wednesday, barely over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., thrust the gun issue into the national spotlight after years of inaction by Obama and lawmakers.

The White House said Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be joined at Wednesday’s announcement by children who wrote the president letters after the Newtown shooting. Supportive lawmakers and advocacy groups are also expected to attend.

Obama is vowing not to back off his support for sweeping gun legislation that would require congressional backing — including banning assault weapons, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and instituting universal background checks — despite opposition from the influential gun lobby.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said at a news conference Monday.

School Guns-Arming Administrators


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — School officials in a central Illinois town are considering training a handful of administrators as auxiliary police officers and letting them carry concealed handguns at the local high school.

The idea being considered at Washington Community High School is, like many campus-safety plans being discussed nationwide, a response to the December shootings that killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

But it’s illegal in Illinois to carry concealed weapons, so the proposal suggests a way around the law: Making a few administrators part of the police force, Washington police Chief Jim Kuchenbecker said.

“They would not be paid but they would be commissioned as part-time, auxiliary police officers with very restricted responsibilities,” he said. “We’re not talking about going back to the old days of the wild west and giving everybody a gun.”

But those administrators would only be allowed to carry guns on campus — meaning the guns would either be locked in the school or taken home at night. Kuchenbecker said he would prefer the latter.

Kuchenbecker and school Superintendent Jim Dunnan came up with the idea and planned to talk about it with school board members in Washington, a town of about 15,000 just west of Peoria, at a Monday night meeting. Dunnan did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Board President Tim Custis said he wanted to hear more after the idea was presented last week to a parent advisory group. Custis said he expects criticism, and noted that at least one board member has already voiced objections.

“I’m sure the (criticism) is going to be a knee-jerk over-reaction to Sandy Hook,” he said. “I think we’re just trying to set up a last line of defense in the case of an intruder.”

Kuchenbecker said board members raised concerns during Monday’s meeting about the training, insurance costs and potential liability.

They also wanted more input about the idea from faculty, staff, students and the public, and asked him to continue his research and come back with recommendations.

Republicans say Cuomo gun bill rammed into law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Republicans say Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accelerated approval of the first gun control measure in the nation following last month’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., may be good politics for him, but they say it’s bad government.

Republican Assemblyman Marc Butler says there should have been public hearings on the wide-ranging package that includes a tighter ban on assault rifles, smaller ammunition magazines, required reporting of gun threats by the mentally and measures for legal gun owners.

Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz accuses the Democrat of an ego-driven effort that makes potential criminals of lawful gun owners.

Republican Sen. Greg Ball says Cuomo pushed the progressive bill to serve a potential presidential bid in 2016.

The Assembly is preparing to give final legislative approval of the bill first made public Monday night.

Experts: Proposed NY gun law might hinder therapy


NEW YORK (AP) — Mental health experts say a new tougher New York state gun control law might interfere with treatment of potentially dangerous people and even discourage them from seeking help.

The law would require therapists, doctors, nurses and social workers to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. That could lead to revoking the patient’s gun permit and seizing any guns.

In interviews Tuesday, one expert called the new law meaningless and said he expects mental health providers to ignore it, while others said they worry about its impact on patients.

Dr. Paul Appelbaum at Columbia University said the prospect of being reported to local mental health authorities and maybe the police might discourage people from revealing thoughts of harm to a therapist, or even from seeking treatment at all.

“The people who arguably most need to be in treatment and most need to feel free to talk about these disturbing impulses, may be the ones we make least likely to do so,” said the director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia. “They will either simply not come, or not report the thoughts that they have.”

“If people with suicidal or homicidal impulses avoid treatment for fear of being reported in this way, they may be more likely to act on those impulses,” he said.

Currently a mental health professional has a duty to protect potential victims of a patient, but there are several ways to do that, he said. The patient can be committed to an institution, voluntarily or not, or his medication can be changed to reduce the risk, or the intended victim can be warned, he said.

Appelbaum said in many mass shootings in the past, the gunman had not been under treatment and so would not have been deterred by a law like the proposed measure.

Senator: Gun legislation must be individualized

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson says it’s important that any gun control legislation is tailored for each state as much as possible.

The Democratic senator says he opposes any one-size-fits-all approach to gun control legislation.

Johnson says that South Dakota has far fewer problems with guns than states like New York and New Jersey.

He says any bill introduced should be comprehensive and include measures on gun control, mental health, background checks and more.

Johnson says he is awaiting a set of 19 executive proposals to be released by President Barack Obama on Wednesday. Obama will release the steps a little over a month since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

SHOT show opens in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show open in Las Vegas Tuesday, and is expected to draw tens of thousands of manufacturers and enthusiasts.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation was focusing its 35th annual SHOT Show on products and services new to what it calls a $4.1 billion industry, with a nod to a raging national debate over assault weapons.

The group said it has issued credentials to nearly 60,000 industry professionals, recreational gun owners and law enforcers to attend.

“Hunting and the recreational shooting sports are here to stay. And so are we,” Steve Sanetti, the foundation president and chief executive, said in a show-opening statement. “A prerequisite to any dialogue involving our industry and its products is an honest recognition of the legitimacy of what we do and the important part of the national culture which we represent.”

The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show at the sprawling Sands Expo Convention Center is closed to the public, and the organizer limited media attendance after the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Heavy-duty restricted guns legally sold in Texas


HOUSTON (AP) — In a heavily guarded store just southwest of Houston, twin .50-caliber “Ma Deuce” machine guns rise up side by side from a mount that could be bolted to the deck of a warship or truck bed.

The guns can fire about 1,200 rounds a minute and take down a plane.

The price tag reads $75,000.

They are among an arsenal of “restricted” or Class 3 weapons, all legal and for sale at Houston Armory, a company that caters to the elite of the gun world and specializes in machine guns, silencers and other weapons required to be registered with the U.S. government.

A few feet away is a fully operational M-60 machine gun, similar to the one carried by “Rambo” through the jungle. There also is a pristine-condition Tommy gun modeled like those used in the Al Capone days.

About 28,690 machine guns are legally owned and registered in Texas, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That includes thousands of such guns believed to be in Harris County and the surrounding area and owned by private citizens, as well as corporations and police departments.

The weapons are cherished by enthusiasts, collectors and investors who can own them and use them if they are willing to wait and pay. A fully automatic 12-gauge shotgun goes for $150,000 — the price of a house or high-end sports car.

What would a wealthy, law-abiding person do with a pair of machine guns worthy of a frigate?

“It is a trophy, a piece of artwork. Why do you want a Mona Lisa?” said Cris Parsons, general manager of Houston Armory. “People get off on having things others don’t have.

“Odds are that the CEO of a major corporation will buy this,” said Parsons, who has fired the guns and can imagine them perched as a centerpiece at a hunting lodge.

Despite the discomfort some might have over private citizens owning guns that were made for soldiers, law enforcement authorities say they can’t point to a specific instance in which a legally registered machine gun was used by a private citizen to commit a violent crime.

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