Sheriff Amerson speaks as association leader on topic of gun violence
by Daniel Gaddy
dgaddy@annistonstar.com
Feb 02, 2013 | 5139 views |  0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In his role as president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson held a press conference in Washington D.C. on Friday to outline the group’s stance on gun control.

Amerson said the association — which represents more than 3,000 sheriffs across the country — held the event “to make sure we were giving clarity to our position.”

The conference included a resolution that states the group supports the rights conferred by the Second Amendment and recognizes the ultimate authority of the courts to interpret the scope of those rights.

Amerson also presented a list of particular areas the group would like to see improved.

“Gun control alone will not solve the problem of guns and extreme violence,” Amerson read. “Society needs a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to this many faceted issue.”

The list did not pin the association down to a stance on more controversial proposals, such as a ban on assault weapons or a limit on high-capacity magazines.

“We’re not getting into that argument,” Amerson said during a phone interview after the press conference.

Amerson added that the association favors providing more school resource officers rather than arming trained teachers, as some lawmakers have proposed.

The resource officers are equipped to deal with far more than just shootings, and they can often build important relationships between the agency and the community, Amerson said.

The list, however, did stress the importance of making more criminal and mental health records available to law enforcement agencies.

In regard to criminal records, Amerson said the association would like to see a strengthening of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The database is used by gun sellers to verify customers’ eligibility to own firearms under federal law.

As an example, Amerson mentioned that in Alabama, few people are ineligible to own a firearm due to mental health reasons.

The sheriff said such exclusions only occur when a law enforcement officer provides testimony during a court proceeding that describes a subject as mentally unfit to own a firearm.

Amerson stressed that the group’s stance is not meant to stigmatize those seeking mental health treatment, the vast majority of whom are not violent.

The association’s list also states that law enforcement should have access to mental health records for accurate background checks and for better response to emergency calls involving mentally ill patients.

Amerson said National Sheriffs’ Association officials would like to see a mechanism in which mental health professionals notify law enforcement if they believe a patient is a danger.

“These are things we can do today,” he said.

The list announced at the press conference also included the following suggestions:

• More training for schools, law enforcement and other public facilities.

• Incentives that promote the gun safety and the secure storage of firearms.

• More vigorous prosecution for those who violate existing gun laws.

• More mental health treatment.

• Reducing violence in the media.

Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_star.
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