Local Politics

Friday, Feb 01 2013 05:03 PM

Sheriff expresses concern about reach of new gun law proposals

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    Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Back from a convention of sheriffs in Washington, D.C., Sheriff Donny Youngblood made some new remarks on gun control Friday, expressing concern about how far federal legislation will go.

President Barack Obama announced a $500 million plan in January to tighten federal gun laws in the wake of several high-profile shootings, including the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., school that killed 20 students and six adults. Obama is urging Congress to pass new laws, some of which would set a minimum standard for the types of guns and ammunition that are commercially available, news reports say.

Youngblood said he has no issue with the president's 23 planned executive actions on guns. He said they mirror California law, which is considered to have some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.

Obama has also called for a new federal law banning magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, according to news reports. That measure was in effect during the previous assault weapons ban between 1994 and 2004.

Leading the charge to restore an assault weapons ban is Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. She has acknowledged it will be difficult to get the legislation through Congress.

Youngblood said he disagrees with Feinstein's proposal.

He added that he believes people have common misperception about assault weapons. For one, they aren't automatic, they're only semi-automatic.

Youngblood noted that the Glock handgun he carries will fire 45 rounds more quickly than an AR-15 rifle, in part because the Glock has a bigger clip and is easier to reload.

Youngblood attended the Major County Sheriffs' Association's winter meeting in Washington from Sunday through Tuesday. He said gun control was "certainly the hot topic."

In attendance was the police chief of Newtown, Youngblood said. The chief said the Newtown shooter actually had difficulty maneuvering in certain areas because of the size of the rifle he was carrying.

The association, which represents the largest sheriff's offices in the United States, made its stance on gun control clear in a Jan. 2 letter sent to Vice President Joe Biden.

"A ban on assault weapons alone will not address the issues of gun violence we are facing in our country today," the letter reads in part. "The issue we have is an access problem: individuals with severe mental illness should never have access to guns."

Youngblood stressed that neither he nor other sheriffs can enforce federal law. They can, however, assist federal authorities if they choose to do so.

An example has been the Kern County Sheriff's Department's ongoing assistance of Drug Enforcement Administration agents in eradicating marijuana grows in national forests. Youngblood said he could decline to help, but he chooses to assist in those situations.

There are no proposals to remove guns from individual homes, but Youngblood said he wouldn't do that anyay.

"We're not going to take guns out of lawful citizens' homes," he said.

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