Local gun regulation history

Local gun regulation

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - In our ongoing look at the gun debate in America, we talk to some experts who have spent their careers protecting us on the streets and in the courtroom.

Sullivan County sheriff Wayne Anderson has been in law enforcement for nearly 40 years. He's seen a lot, including a school shooting at Sullivan Central High School two and a half years ago.

He recalls the School Resource Officer ran off the attacker after he pointed gun at principal. He says there was a standoff for about 15 minutes; when other officers arrived on the scene, the gunman was killed. Sheriff Anderson says, "It's the only school shooting where only bad guy got injured."

Even so, he tells us gun bans aren't the answer to reducing gun crime. Sheriff Anderson says he's seen one thing that has worked around here: a law mandating tougher penalties for using a gun in a crime. "Back in the 1970s they came out with a law in the state of Tennessee that if you used a gun that if you used a gun in the commission of a felony, it was five years [in prison], day for day. That was big news in those times," Anderson said. "And after that, we had robberies, but they used baseball bats, they used knives, they used everything but a gun. You couldn't find a gun."

Virginia has also tried gun restrictions. One that worked was not about what type of gun you could purchase, but rather how often you could buy one. It's commonly called the "one gun a month" rule.

Virginia Prosecutor Gerry Gray says it made a difference not just here, but across the country. "One of the things that rule did is it substantially decreased the number of guns flowing from Virginia into other locations where the guns were being used to kill and rob people," he explained. 

That law went into effect in 1993, but was repealed by Virginia lawmakers a year ago in February 2012.

Johnson City Police chief Mark Sirois says gun control is a complicated topic. He says if it weren't, we'd have solved it sometime ago. "My main takeaway from this is that people are talking about it, and hopefully through all of that, something does get put in place that is beneficial for the community and makes for a safer environment for us, our families and our children," he said.

Learn more about the Second Amendment and history of gun control on our special Guns In America section.

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