UPDATE 12/17/12 @ 7:10 p.m.
HURRICANE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The gun control issue has sparked debate even in our communities at home.
Gun control advocates want tighter restrictions, especially of assault weapons.
However, even with several gun tragedies this year, the national crime rate is actually down. Gun ownership is also declining.
At Ultimate Pawn in Hurricane, owner Brian Bowling says he sells nearly 100 guns each week. He says some buy them for protection, while others buy them for recreation.
"Most of our customers take them to the range and shoot them, you know," Brian Bowling said. "Ban the criminals, not the guns."
Not everyone agrees with Bowling's point of view.
"We can no longer just sit back and allow this to happen," Pastor Monty Brown said. "We've got to do more."
WSAZ.com found that there have been nearly 50 documented school-related shootings across the country since the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
"We can as a people voluntarily make some changes and, if we don't -- we're going to see more and more," Brown said.
Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons but since that ban expired in 2004, no stricter restrictions have been placed on the guns.
Bowling suggests other forms of security to keep kids safe.
"I think maybe they should consider putting an armed guard or at least an armed principal in the school," Bowling said.
"No one would support that kind of insanity," Brown said. "But yet that's the way our culture has become."
Over the past five years, the School Building Authority has granted more than $35 million to upgrade security systems at schools throughout West Virginia.
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The conservative West Virginia Democrat said Monday he agrees with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has advocated banning the sale of assault weapons.
Manchin tells MSNBC's "Morning Joe" says he is a "proud outdoorsman and hunter, but this doesn't make sense."
He is the most prominent gun rights advocate to speak publicly in the wake of the shooting.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement about the need for public action in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown.
“This awful massacre of our youngest children has changed us, and everything should be on the table. We need to move beyond dialogue – we need to take a sensible, reasonable approach to the issue of mass violence. I ask all of my colleagues to sit down with a seriousness of purpose to address the causes of these tragic crimes, including mental health treatment, military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and our culture, which seems to glorify violence more than ever in our video games and movies.
“Furthermore, this conversation needs to include those of us who strongly support the Second Amendment of our Constitution, because we, too, are proud parents who want all our children to have a safe place to learn and play. All this can be discussed while still protecting our Second Amendment rights.
“Finally, I know that all Americans will continue to pray for comfort for the families of these children and the women who gave their lives to protect them at school. They will always be in my prayers, Gayle’s prayers and the hearts of the people of West Virginia.”
"As a father, I cannot fathom the grief that the Sandy Hook Community is facing. But I do know that none of us is powerless. It’s past time that we start a sensible dialogue about gun safety in our communities. We should start by establishing a commission to examine how to prevent gun violence. It’s also time to renew the assault weapons ban, a commonsense effort to prevent the proliferation of deadly weapons. We should also work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health treatment and to inform parents of mentally-ill children that they are not alone in their struggles and have allies and resources to which they can turn. Finally, I hope responsible gun owners will take steps voluntarily to keep their firearms out of the hands of unstable individuals. Each of us should do what we can to prevent the next Chardon or Newtown."
“Making sure our children and families are safe each and every day should be our top priority. Sadly, last Friday, we learned in an absolutely terrible way that we haven’t done enough. No parent, sibling, or loved one should have to endure what 26 families are suffering through right now. Unfortunately, families lose loved ones every day as a result of gun violence. Too many young lives have been taken from us too soon, and Friday’s unspeakable actions are another stark wakeup call that we must do more. This is not the time for soft words and empty promises, but a call for strong action.
“I voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994, which also included a ban of high capacity clips, and it’s unacceptable that it hasn’t been reauthorized. West Virginia has a proud hunting tradition and respect for the Second Amendment. But most hunters I talk with know that prohibiting the use of military-grade weapons or clips that can fire dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds will not impact those traditions, nor do they have a place on our streets. We need to pass a bill that will again prohibit such weapons.
“Preventing gun violence is a clear issue here, but this horrible tragedy also brings to the forefront the need for a renewed national dialogue on mental health. Today, Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services in the U.S. Unfortunately, as both state and federal budget cuts have mounted nationwide, both inpatient and community services for children and adults living with serious mental illness have been downsized or eliminated. We must fix that. Despite the federal mental health parity law passed in 2008, which is in place to end insurance company discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health, there is an incredible shortage of mental health providers across the country – including West Virginia. This is yet another area where action is necessary.
“We also need to look at the violence our kids see every day starting at a young age. By the time children reach 18 years old, they have seen tens of thousands of violent images – on television, the internet, or video games. As parents, research confirms what we already know – these violent images have a negative impact on our children’s wellbeing. While we don’t know if such images impacted the killer in Newtown, the issue of violent content is serious and must be addressed.
“This horrific tragedy shook communities across West Virginia and the country. But sadly, incidents with guns kill Americans throughout this country every day. And I’ve heard from families in West Virginia who have lost loved ones, including their own children. It would be a travesty if we only looked at Friday’s attack – as well as the many other senseless tragedies we’ve seen – in silence and refuse to act. I’m pushing for that action now before we have to mourn more innocent lives lost.”