The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

February 8, 2013


Gun control laws and the proper use of the weapons discussed at Rotary Club meeting.

The Daily Southerner

ROCKY MOUNT — Gun control legislation has been a hot topic since the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December.

Timothy Copeland, guest speaker at the Tarboro Rotary Club Thursday afternoon, discussed gun control laws and the proper use of the weapons.

Copeland is a retired deputy sheriff with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office specializing in jail operations.

President Barack Obama has proposed a ban on assault weapons (semi-automatic rifles), and Copeland expressed his opposition to the ban.

“So-called assault weapons have been around for 110 years,” He noted that various types of guns have been on “somebody’s banned list” at one time or another, including any gun with a barrel length less than 4 inches, under a 1980’s law known as the “Saturday night special.”

“What we need to do is clean up the mental health mess that we’ve got and we need to keep guns out of the hands of those people,” Copeland said. The Newtown, Conn. shooter, Adam Lanza, reportedly had mental health issues.

Other people who he believes should not have guns are those who do not know how to use them and those who won’t make a conscious effort to keep their guns away from children.

Like a fire extinguisher, Copeland regards a gun as “an emergency piece of equipment you hope you’ll never need to use,” but a valuable tool to have on-hand and to know how to use, if necessary.

Rotarian Dr. Jerry Price asked Copeland his opinion of limiting the size of high-capacity magazine clips used for ammunition, another part of Obama’s comprehensive plan to address gun violence.

“Once again, it’s an example of something that sounds good on the outside, but I don’t think it’s going to be effective,” Copeland said.

Price disagreed.

“I don’t see how it’s going to hurt, restricting the magazine size, because of the message it sends,” he said.

Another topic of discussion since the Newtown, Conn. shooting is having armed police officers in schools as a safety measure.

“What do you think about guns in schools?” Ronnie Ellis asked Copeland.

“I know the only way we can protect our children is to have something to protect them with,” Copeland said. “I like the idea of training specific people who will carry [handguns] discreetly.”

Ellis stated after the meeting that he is in favor of having armed personnel in schools.

“I just feel there should be someone authorized to carry a gun who would be there. That way students would know that we do have security,” Ellis said.

Al Hull asked Copeland about laws governing the sale of guns between individual owners and at gun shows. Copeland replied that a shotgun or a rifle could be sold by an individual owner without the issuance of a permit and that he opposes universal background checks for the sale of guns.

“If you purchase any firearm from a dealer, there is a background check conducted for that,” said Copeland. “Universal background checks — that’s something we’ve always opposed here in America…For the good it would do, it does too much harm.”

Copeland reasoned that universal background checks would likely punish law-abiding citizens, such as a father passing a hunting rifle on to his son, rather than punishing criminals, who, “by definition, don’t obey the law.”

Hull seemed satisfied with Copeland’s response

“I think if we abide by the laws [on the sale of guns], we’ll be alright,” he said.

Copeland also discussed concealed carry permits at Thursday’s meeting. He was among the first certified concealed carry handgun instructors in North Carolina.

“There was no such thing as a concealed carry permit back in 1977. Now, 49 of 50 states allow private citizens to carry concealed handguns under certain circumstances,” he said. “Today, we know the good guys from the bad guys because the good guys have a piece of paper.”

He also talked about the recent change in the use of a gun for self-defense, explaining to Rotary members that it is now legal to use a gun as a defense against a home intruder. Even in that case, Copeland recommended using only the amount of force necessary to overcome the attacker, not an excessive amount of force.

“I never say, ‘Shoot to kill.’ I say, ‘Shoot to stop him,’” said Copeland.

Copeland ended his talk with a statement about his right as a United States citizen to own and use a gun when the time calls for it.

“When it comes to my right to defend myself and my family, that’s very important to me,” he said.

Like Copeland, Tarboro resident Gerald Roderick opposes the proposed gun control laws. He bought a 12-gauge shotgun and a 22-caliber rifle at Carolina Jewelry Buyers pawnbroker on Thursday afternoon.

“I think it is stupid. We have the right to bear arms. It is in our Second Amendment.”