Gun control proposals divide local and state leaders

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 7:46 PM

HOUSTON -- Houston’s police chief and Harris County’s sheriff both expressed their support on Thursday for some of the additional gun control proposals introduced this week by President Obama.

But other leaders, including Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott vocally oppose the recommendations as a potential “overreaction’ and threat to constitutional rights.

Asked Thursday about his opinion, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said that as a gun owner and advocate for the 2nd Amendment, he is also an avid hunter and sportsman. But he says he prefers a bolt action single-shot rifle, not a semi-automatic weapon.

"And I certainly see no reason why the public should have military style assault weapons,” said McClelland. “I think it's a danger to the general public and it's a danger to my police officers.”

McClelland also expressed support for additional funding that provides care for the mentally ill and thorough background checks on all gun buyers. Houston police officers are often the “defacto mental health experts” in their communities, responding to about 27,000 mental health calls a year.

"First of all I'm glad that mental health is a component of whatever may be the solution,” added Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia when asked for his response. He estimates that 25 percent of the population of the Harris County Jail is under medical treatment for some type of psychiatric or mental issue. Garcia says he supports additional efforts that will make it safer for his officers on the streets.

"I don't want my deputies outgunned. And I don't want my deputies looking down a barrel that is ten times the size of theirs. I don't want automatic weapons out there. I don't want armor piercing ammo out there. I don't want true military weapons out on the streets,” Garcia said in support of the Obama proposal whose major elements include universal background checks for all gun buyers, a crackdown on gun trafficking, a ban on military-style assault weapons and a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

"The odds should be in favor of the guys with the white hats,” said Garcia. “The odds should be in favor, and laws should be in support, of good law abiding citizens.”

But this week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who began advertising online in New York with ads inviting New Yorkers to move to a less restrictive gun control state like Texas, decried the Obama proposal as an over-reach by the federal government.

"It's inappropriate for politicians to overreact and take actions that are both counter- productive and unconstitutional,” said Abbott.

"I don't see any of these rules doing anything to stop the Sandy Hooks from happening again,” added Houston Police Officer’s Union President Ray Hunt who believes that additional background checks will put additional burdens on honest, law-abiding gun buyers.

"This was a tragic situation that can happen again and can happen even after everything what President Obama puts in place. If you're just trying to calm the public by waving 'we're doing something' OK. But it's not going to be doing anything,” said Hunt who believes that better enforcement of existing laws, not banning certain weapons, should be part of any potential solution.

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