Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 31, 2013

Local sheriffs are unsure about enforcing new federal gun laws

PRINCETON — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as some leaders of both houses in Congress appear ready to advance a gun control initiative in response to the deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012 that claimed the lives of 20 students and 6 adult staff members.

While local law enforcement officers express sorrow for the tragedy, at least two southern West Virginia sheriffs don’t think they have the authority to enforce the new federal laws, and say that the laws haven’t passed Congress yet, and at this point, U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

“I don’t have the authority to enforce federal laws,” Mercer County Sheriff D.B. “Don” Meadows said. “I have two deputies who are sworn by the U.S. Marshals to assist them when needed, but I don’t know if I would send them out to enforce new gun laws.

“Everybody’s worried about something that hasn’t happened yet,” Meadows said. “I don’t know how it will be in the end. Limiting the amount of ammunition in a clip might be received by gun owners. I’ll say this, though. If there’s someone out there with 10 guns in their home, I won’t be sending anyone out to take them.”

Meadows said he understands the reason why the matter is being discussed nationally. “I feel sorry for the students and the teachers in Connecticut, but it’s not the guns,” Meadows said. “It’s the people who’ve got them.” Meadows served with the ATF for a period of his career in law enforcement and recalled a time when he and other agents were tracking a suspected gun-runner who was about to cross the state border into Michigan.

“We followed him close enough to see that he had a bumper sticker on the back of his van that said: ‘If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.’ After he crossed into Michigan and we pulled him over, the whole back of his van was filled with guns.”

In McDowell County, Sheriff Martin B. West said that guns are not the problem. Enforcing laws requiring background checks would help.

“It’s the lack of enforcing some of the rules and regulations that are already in effect,” he said. “We’ve got laws that – if they would be enforced instead of trying to get by them – we would probably be more effective in stopping these senseless murders we see in our schools and happening all over the country.”

West said more people are killed in drunk driving crashes than with guns.

“When you’ve got a 6,000 or 8.000 pound car, you’ve got a more powerful weapon than a gun. If it hits the right place, it could kill 50, 100 people at once,” he said.

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