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Local officials weigh in on gun control

Last Modified: Monday, December 24, 2012 4:22 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is a top answer to gun control, some local law enforcement officials said.

“The problem is there are too many guns on the street in the hands of bad guys,” Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier said. “You need to limit the bad guys instead of the guns.”

Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon had similar thoughts.

“I have no problem with ownership or possession of guns by responsible individuals,” Dixon said, careful to point out that his views were his own and not representative of the police department. “Where I have a problem is that people who commit crimes with a gun or possess a gun as a convicted felon are generally not held totally accountable for their actions.”

The national debate on gun control has reached fever pitch in the wake of 20-year-old Adam Lanza’s killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. Lanza used an AR-15 assault rifle with a 30-round clip and two handguns, a 9 mm and a 10 mm. Reports have labeled him as having a personality disorder and an affection for violent video games.

The American Press reached out to several law enforcement officials for their thoughts on gun control.

Dixon said greater steps should be taken to keep guns out of the hands of the criminals.

“Any individual who is convicted a second time for a felony committed with a firearm should receive a mandatory life sentence,” Dixon said. “No plea bargains. Make the risk bigger than the reward.”

DeRosier said he could see lowering the number of rounds clips hold. He cautioned, though, if a ban on high-round clips or assault rifles were enacted, there are so many currently on the market, the landscape would continue to be saturated with them and “the bad guys are going to figure out a way to get them. They’ll steal them from the good guys.”

He also said most guns used in crimes were not obtained legally.

“Will additional legislation help? Certainly that’s a possibility,” DeRosier said. “But the answer is not in additional legislation, that’s going to be a knee-jerk reaction to this horrific event that will not produce the results that America needs.”

Dixon didn’t go so far as to say he thought clip rounds should be limited, but did say “there is no police officer I know that would want to confront a subject who is armed with a firearm, but especially an individual with a semiautomatic weapon with a 30-round magazine…. That is why all patrol officers with the LCPD are issued an assault rifle and are trained and must qualify once a year. Losing is not an option.”

Joe Toler, deputy chief of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, said in a letter to the editor published Sunday that he would like to see more gun control.

“There needs to be some serious legislation for crimes committed with firearms and weapons in general,” said Toler, also clarifying that his thoughts were his own and not those of his department. “For what use is an assault weapon in the hands of a civilian? I heard a comment the other day that if you want an assault weapon you better buy it now. For what? So there are more out there?”

Toler said he would like to see “stricter gun-control laws across the board and not just with assault weapons. It’s too easy here for anyone to purchase a weapon.”

From growing up playing cowboys and Indians, to violence on TV, to violent video games, DeRosier said he believes violence that permeates American culture is part of the problem.

“To turn on the television and watch or not watch a program because it contains violence no longer is a decision to make like it used to be years ago,” DeRosier said. “It’s just a part of everyday life in America and in the American entertainment industry.”

Some are affected more than others, he said.

“How do you single those people out?” DeRosier asked. “Is gun-control legislation going to change the ideology of those people? I think the answer is probably, negative.”

“We basically have the laws we need to prosecute. You can’t legislate attitude, you can’t legislate morality. You just have to educate it into people.”

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