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Gun laws attract attention in local, national political circles

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, has suggested that the country needs to do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
BY BRYAN DEAN Modified: January 24, 2011 at 6:44 am •  Published: January 24, 2011

Members of the Oklahoma City Council and U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn made comments this week regarding gun laws.

Military-style rifles, high-capacity magazines and access to guns for the mentally ill are under discussion in Oklahoma City after a police officer was shot and across the nation following an assassination attempt on a congresswoman.

Whether such talk will translate into legislation at any level is questionable.

The Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has brought the gun debate to the forefront of national politics. Jared Loughner, who is charged with killing six people and injuring 14 others at a Tucson political rally for Giffords, is characterized by police as a mentally unstable man who used a handgun with a 30-round magazine to carry out the shooting.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, has suggested that the country needs to do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty called for better tracking of guns, particularly military-style firearms like one that was used last year to ambush police officer Katie Lawson, who survived the attack despite being outgunned by a suspect carrying an AR-15 rifle, a civilian version of the M-16 assault rifle.

Citty's comments sparked discussion at Tuesday's city council meeting. Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman and Ward 4 Councilman Pete White commended Citty for speaking out on the issue.

“We live in a time when the language surrounding Second Amendment rights are out of control in my opinion,” White said. “It takes real courage from someone like him to bring that up and talk about it in a public place.”

Bowman encouraged members of the council and private citizens to write their leaders in Congress echoing Citty's comments that civilian versions of military-style weapons, such as the AR-15, pose an increasing threat to law enforcement.

“There is no place for that kind of weapon in our civil communities,” Bowman said.

City Manager Jim Couch said the city would like to strike a balance between the Second Amendment and the desire to keep its citizens and police officers safe. He said the issue is so controversial that drafting new policies is problematic.

Even among council members, there is significant disagreement.

Ward 5 Councilman Brian Walters said he owns several semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and worries any attempt to restrict such firearms would only affect law-abiding citizens.

“I enjoy shooting them,” Walters said of his military-style rifles. “It in no way causes me to have the tendency to go out and hurt someone with it. It has everything to do with the Second Amendment. It's about being responsible with them.”

Mike Rust, general manager of H&H Gun Range, said AR-15s and similar semi-automatic rifles are popular with hunters, property owners who want to protect their livestock and sport and target shooters.

But Rust said there has not been a spike in sales of AR-15s, high-capacity magazines or other firearms because of the recent shootings.

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