Gun control has always been a heated issue in America, but with the recent number of headline-capturing gun-related crimes, the topic is hotter than an Iowa summer during a drought. Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty, recently expressed his views on the subject.
“In a nutshell, I think we need to focus on a lot of the mental health issues first, before we focus on gun control,” said Halferty. “We need to be reasonable with gun control. I also think that there are a lot of law-abiding citizens in Jasper County and in the state of Iowa that own firearms. And they have a right to own those firearms. I don’t agree with the fact that there is some legislation where they want us to take those away from those law abiding citizens.”
Although no laws have been passed yet, gun and ammo sales across the country have steadily climbed over the last few years. According to the FBI, last year they ran about 16.8 million background checks for firearm purchases, a new record since the FBI began publishing the data in 1998.
And according to USA Today, the number of background checks on Black Friday of last year was 154,873, up from the previous record of 129,166 set in 2011. Citizens seem to be stocking up out of fear that new laws and regulations would prevent them from being able to obtain or keep their current firearms. Halferty has noticed the trend here in Jasper County.
“I can tell you toward the end of the year, 2012, we had 2,200 permits to carry (issued), said Halferty. “In the month of January we’ve had 200 permits issued and those are permits to carry and to purchase.”
Whether out of fear of regulation or fear of the neighbor next door, firearm aficionados are speaking out in and taking a stance on more regulation. Steve Hensyel, the owner of HawkEye Firearms Instruction and a member of the Iowa Firearms Coalition had this to say on the subject of more government mandates on guns.
“Fluff that won’t do anything,” said Hensyel. “There’s already a large amount of gun laws that are already on the books. More laws aren’t going to help anything. If people intend on doing harm, they are going to find a way to do it.”
These sentiments seemed to be shared by Sheriff Halferty.
“I think a lot of law enforcement realizes that if somebody wants to go hurt somebody, if they want to get a firearm or a gun, they are going to get it somewhere. A lot of us (law enforcement officials) want to focus on the mental health issues. Many of these individuals (recent mass shooting suspects), have mental health issues. And a lot of them, there is a history there and people know it. I’m not placing the blame on anybody, but maybe some early intervention into those cases and some monitoring (is needed).”
Halferty is firm believer in that more thorough background checks should be performed to prevent people with a criminal background or history of mental illnesses from obtaining firearms.
“To stop people from owning firearms or weapons, I don’t think its going to pass,” said Halferty. “I think they would be asking for a lot of problems. A lot of good people out there own firearms and they can control them. They’re never going to have the intent to do anything wrong with them. I would oppose any law that says, ‘Hey, you’re going to have to take these weapons away from these good citizens.’”
Daily News Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.