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Local figures weigh in on gun legislation

By: Garrett Price, Avery Journal

When second amendment legislation is created, altered or oftentimes even mentioned at the federal level, its effects trickle down down and make waves in even the smallest locales. Avery County is no exception. After President Barack Obama issued his most recent executive orders involving gun legislation, The Avery Journal-Times culled statements from local politicians about the hot-button issue.

“President Obama is once again bypassing the legislative branch and subverting its will. Our founders enshrined in the Constitution the right to keep and bear arms and that cannot be changed through executive fiat. Combatting gun violence in the U.S. is critically important, but the actions announced by President Obama today would do nothing to address it and would instead unlawfully restrict law-abiding citizens’ access to firearms,” Congressman Mark Meadows (R) N.C. 11th District, said in a statement.

Meadow’s fellow member of Congress, Avery County native Virginia Foxx, also released a statement on the president’s decision.

“As citizens of the United States, we are afforded basic rights and privileges under the Constitution. One of these fundamental rights is the Second Amendment and its guarantee to keep and bear arms is clear. In yet another attempt to erode our basic liberties, President Obama announced plans to undermine the will of Congress and challenge the Second Amendment rights of all Americans. Guns are one of many tools that people use to commit horrific crimes, but the problem of evil cannot be legislated away. It is important that any legislative response — whether it’s at the federal, state or local level — ensures that the constitutional rights of all citizens are protected,” Foxx said.
While gun debates are well-trod territory for any politician — no matter their take on the issue — that wants to electrify their base, for local sheriffs the issue is a more a personnel than political matter.

“Anytime the President opens his mouth and the words ‘guns’ or ‘ammo’ are mentioned, we see dramatic spikes in the number of handgun and concealed carry permits that we issue,” Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye said. “We have already, this year, surpassed the number of permits that we issued last year.”

While according to Frye, this number is measured from July to the following July, it still represents a considerable upswing in handgun purchases and concealed carry permits issued in the county. The effect is so dramatic that, according to Frye, ACSO has a difficult time keeping enough staff on hand to facilitate the increase in demand.

“We have one full-time administrative position that is left to do everything that we do here administratively. Civil process, criminal process, taking care of all the civil papers and all of the concealed carry and pistol purchase permits. She stays very busy,” Frye said.

Neighboring counties have a similar increase in handgun permit applications. In an interview with The Watauga Democrat, Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said there has been an upswing in permit purchase in that county, but it was hard to determine whether Obama’s legislation or the holiday season was the catalyst. The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office did, however, notice an upswing of permit applications following Obama’s election and re-election in 2009 and 2013. 

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