MARIETTA - Residents agree ways are needed to try to prevent another mass shooting, but they differ on what and many oppose a renewal of a ban on assault weapons.
"Do I think everybody in America needs an assault weapon? No," said John Hudspeth, 64, of Marietta. "But taking it away from law-abiding citizens, I don't think that's the answer either."
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced an administration-wide effort led by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with new policy proposals aimed at curbing gun violence. While mental health and cultural issues are also up for consideration, the president called on Congress to renew the assault weapon ban that expired in 2004, close a loophole that allows guns to be purchased from private dealers at shows without background checks and consider limiting the purchase of high-capacity magazines.
The killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last week have prompted some lawmakers to apparently reconsider their stances on certain gun control measures, but residents interviewed Wednesday said they largely felt the same about the matters as they did a week ago.
Hudspeth said he was saddened by news of the shootings, but he believes the availability of certain types of guns is not the root of the problem.
"I've never seen a gun kill anybody," he said. "I was in the service. They taught us respect for the weapons.
"The problem is not with the guns; it's with society," Hudspeth said.
Marietta Township resident John Lankford, 66, a member of the local Friends of the NRA chapter, agreed, saying private ownership of fully automatic weapons wasn't banned until 1968 and the news didn't contain as many stories of mass shootings before then as is seen today. He's concerned about cultural influences like television and video games.
"Every show, there's a confrontation," Lankford said, adding that he quit watching a program he enjoyed about logging because it focused more on disputes between individuals than the work they were doing.
Lankford said he's not a regular church-goer, but he believes the Bible provides an "excellent set of rules" for how to live, whether one is religious or not.
"We've quit teaching those rules," he said.
Hudspeth said he's not sure what the government can do to address the underlying problems that lead to incidents like last Friday's, but he believes parents can make a difference by having control of and disciplining their children. He would not oppose a limitation on the capacity of ammunition clips available for sale to the general public, but the idea of closing the gun show loophole makes him leery.
"All that does is allow people in the government to know where all the guns are" should they ever decide to take them, Hudspeth said.
Marietta resident Zach O'Dell, 47, owns multiple weapons, including an AK-47. He said he doesn't have a problem with them being registered.
"Just like Charlton Heston said, you got to take it from my cold, dead hands, and the problem is, you got to take it from the hot, flashy end," he said.
O'Dell said he doesn't mind requiring background checks for sales from individuals just like those required with licensed gun dealers.
"If you can't wait three days (to get a gun), I guess you don't need it," he said.
O'Dell said people with permits for guns should disclose whether they live with someone with a mental illness. That doesn't necessarily mean they should not own the weapon, he said, but perhaps they should be required to have an insurance bond and guarantee that it would be properly stored and locked away.
The weapons 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza brought to and used at Sandy Hook were legally purchased by his mother.
Concern that Congress will increase gun control measures has led to increased business at gun stores like Magnum, Get Your Shot On in Whipple, owner Chuck Nonnenmacher said.
"We're covered up," he said. "We can't get guns. Guns are sold out everywhere."
Workers are having trouble getting through on the phone line for FBI background checks due to increased activity around the country, Nonnenmacher said.
Marietta resident Angela Harkins, 49, said she agrees with tightening background and mental health check regulations but not with limiting what type of guns the average citizen can own. Even if such a ban was passed, she doesn't believe it would make a difference.
"My opinion is that it doesn't matter what you ban; people that do things like that are going to get them anyway," she said.
Sandy Ammell, 63, of Marietta, conceded that criminals could still obtain weapons that were banned, but she still believes there should be a limit on what types of guns people can buy. And after last Friday's killings, she believes it is more likely to happen.
"There are too many people getting killed with guns," she said.
Even if a ban did prevent someone from obtaining an assault weapon, it wouldn't stop people from killing, Nonnenmacher said.
"They take away ARs, so now he's going to take a shotgun," he said. "If they outlaw all the guns, then it's going to be knives, it's going to be bows, it's going to be baseball bats."