Adam Lanza killed 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Dec. 14. He was carrying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Bilmore and Son Hardware has firearms for sale. Those firearms have included three .223-caliber rifles that were for sale on consignment as recently as this week. Bilmore manager Randy D’Herde said they’re technically not assault rifles, because they don’t have selector switches that allow them to fire automatically.
But Merriam Webster defines an assault rifle as “any of various automatic or semiautomatic rifles with large capacity magazines designed for military use.”
In any case, D’Herde said the guns at his store can hold clips of 30 or dozens more bullets. That capability is part of what has concerned some folks in the national debate about just how restrictive gun laws should be.
D’Herde said he believes the clips in the rifles he currently has for sale hold no more than 15 bullets at a time, but he said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of carrying clips that hold 30 or more bullets, if they become available. (He said clips of that size are scarce in the marketplace right now.)
“ I don’t’ see why we shouldn’t be allowed to have whatever (customers) want,” D’Herde said. “The Second Amendment doesn’t limit you.”
D’Herde said the point of the Second Amendment is to give people the right to defend themselves.
“If you want to defend yourself, don’t you want as many bullets as you need?” D’Herde said.
Jennifer Kidd, a public health physician who lives in Port Aransas, said she’s concerned that assault rifles are available in town.
“You can debate the Second Amendment’s intent and relevance. You can debate the hunting argument all day long. But, for me, it’s simple,” Kidd said. “I don’t agree with the ready availability of semi-automatic, military-style firearms and high capacity ammunition for the general public. This makes us all less safe, regardless of whether or not they are currently legal. I’m very disheartened that the sale of these is possible in our town.”
Kidd is head of the Port Aransas Independent School District’s Student Health Advisory Council, but she said she was making her comments as a citizen and public health physician, not as a spokesman for the council.
Kidd’s husband, Des Kidd, also a physician, said he agreed with his wife’s remarks. He takes issue with the argument that assault rifles are needed for self-defense.
“Simply put, our first world culture ought to be wiser than to live amidst such advanced technology and population expansion, yet cling to paranoia appropriate for colonial life of 1789,” Des Kidd said.
“Between the threat of red coats and Indian attacks, it was probably prudent to arm one’s self with a slow-loading, single-shot sidearm,” Des Kidd said. “To extrapolate the 27 words of the Second Amendment to mean unfettered access to modern weaponry with rapid firing mechanisms, muzzle velocities of more than 3,000 feet per second and customized flesh-ripping projectiles of 2013 is, well, farcical.”
Annetta Adams said outlawing high-firepower guns won’t help. Outlaws still will obtain them, she said.
“I have absolutely no need for an assault rifle, but at some point in time, like a lot of people in Port Aransas, I think I would like to live in the country,” Adams said. “It’s a different world today than you and I grew up in. At that point in time, I feel like I would need one, because I feel like I would need one for defense. If five people with (an assault rifle) show up, and they want to rob my house and kill my family, I would like to have a fighting chance.”
Alan Olson of Port Aransas said assault rifles shouldn’t be readily available.
“It’s a personal killing machine. It’s for humans to kill people. It’s not to kill animals. No one uses it for that,” Olson said.
“I think the large clips should not be available at all, except to law enforcement,” Olson said. “They’re just not necessary for hunting.”
John Price said large clips do come in handy for hunting.
“I don’t have any objections to (assault rifles). I don’t own one, but I do have a little mini- 14 Ruger ranch rifle with a 30-round clip. It’s great fun when you’re hog hunting,” Price said.
Wild hogs, which are seen widely as a nuisance, can be killed in groups when they gather to feed, and rifles with big magazines make that easier, he said.
“My general feeling is, we’re missing the mark on gun control,” Price said. “The problem is not controlling guns. The problem is controlling people. We are failing to recognize we have some emotionally unstable people among us, and we’re not dealing with them.”
Price is a Port Aransas city councilman but said he was speaking as a citizen during the interview.
Mike Secich said he doesn’t object to people owning guns in general, but he believes assault rifles with large amounts of firepower shouldn’t be generally available.
“I don’t think a person needs something that will shoot 30 bullets,” Secich said. “I have no problem with handguns and shotguns. But people don’t need something like a bazooka in their house. I think people get too wrapped up with weapons, and they end up killing themselves or a loved one.”
To buy an assault rifle in Texas, one needs only to fill out a federal firearms form, and the seller just needs to run a background check to see if the potential purchaser is a felon, is under a protective order or if other personal issues prevents the sale, said Bobby Sherwood, constable of Nueces County Precinct No. 4, which includes Port Aransas within its boundaries.
But Sherwood said it’s his opinion that passing laws to further restrict access to assault guns won’t prevent mass shootings. People who are determined to get those kinds of firearms can find ways to obtain them, no matter what the law says, he said.
Sherwood pointed out that the Sandy Hook Elementary School killer used his mother’s gun, killing her as part of the mass slaying.
Dr. Sharon Doughty, superintendent of PAISD, and Port Aransas Police Chief Scott Burroughs declined to comment on the assault gun issue for this story.