As the conversation about stricter gun laws heats up around the country, the general consensus in Warren County seems to be that the laws in place are just fine.
In a recent TimesObserver.com poll, more than 70 percent of voters felt there is no need for stronger gun control laws. While this is not scientific data to support any sort of claim, it is an assessment of the feelings in the area.
Despite the fact that local firearms dealers adhere to the regulations in place, the question lies in whether or not the gun laws are strict enough. According to Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania State Police, handgun sales have nearly doubled since 2000 in Warren County alone, rising from 822 in 2000 to 1635 in 2011. However, due to Title 18, 6111.4, a registry of firearms is forbidden, which makes it impossible to know something as simple as how many firearms are registered inWarren County.
Warren resident Harry Rosequist feels that the gun control laws currently established are sufficient, adding, "We don't need stronger laws, we just need to focus on the ones we have." Rosequist's opinion is that of a person who has never owned a firearm, rather than that of someone who would stand to lose if gun control laws were tightened.
"I don't think it will matter what laws you have on the books, we live in a society today with so much evil," stated Youngsville Police Chief Todd Mineweaser. He believes in the constitutional right to bear arms, but feels there is a need for a limitation to that right. "I don't believe that assault rifles should be so easy to get your hands on. That is pretty scary to know that you can walk into any gun shop and buy them. Maybe people need a psychiatric exam before purchasing any weapon."
Meanwhile, on the national level, Congressman Glenn Thompson believes that the nation should examine what can be done to help prevent gun violence and address the root causes of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton Connecticut and others like it, according to Communications Director Parish Braden.
"As a member of the House Education and The Workforce Committee, I can't think of any issue more important than protecting the safety of our children, which should be a central focus at all levels of government following completion of the current investigation," stated Thompson.
To get a better grasp on the laws already in place, Tall Tales owner Randy Lookenhouse was willing to give insight into the application process for firearms purchases.
"You can't just walk in and drop some cash; there's a process here," said Lookenhouse. The lawful sale of firearms requires the applicant to file proper state and federal paperwork that must be approved before the transaction can even begin. On the paperwork, there are more than ten stipulations that will immediately disqualify an individual. After the application is successfully completed, "State Police will process a background check and we go from there," he added.
The state uses the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to verify an applicant's eligibility to legally purchase a firearm within minutes.
According to the FBI's website, more than 100 million NICS checks have been processed in the last decade with a denial rate of 0.007 percent, turning away more than 700,000 individuals.
Warren County is home to a large number of gun owners who use the weapons primarily for hunting and for sport, according to Lookenhouse. The population that he serves in his store is exactly that - the hunter and the sportsman. Since individuals must be 21 to own a handgun and 18 to purchase a rifle, Tall Tales assists a wide range of owners, but most range from 40-60 years old.
In the weeks following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary, President Barack Obama has pledged immediate action.
"The nation will have a set of recommendations to address widespread gun violence within weeks," Obama announced last week.
Since then, Vice-President Joe Biden has been placed at the head of an inter-agency group in charge of coming up with proposals no later than January.
Current suggestions for change include legislation pushed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, which would restore a 1990s ban on assault weapons which lapsed in 2004, something the National Rifle Association's CEO Wayne LaPierre disagrees with.
Several other options are likely to be introduced in the coming weeks.
"These tragedies must end," said Obama. "And to end them, we must change."