Local party leaders divided over need for new gun laws

Feb. 04, 2013 @ 09:59 AM

The gun control debate is often imagined to cause a great split along party lines. The chairmen of the local Democratic and Republican parties offered their own takes on the issue in separate conversations with The Mountain Press.

Republican Chairman Devin Koester said people shouldn’t use the emotional reaction to tragedies like Newtown as a basis for making new laws.

“It really is a tragedy what happened to the children in Connecticut, but I don’t think eliminating a Constitutional right is the way to go about addressing that issue. I think you need to have more help with mental health issues,” he said.

Democratic Party Chairman Mike Fitzgibbons said he doesn’t think he fits the image his counterparts have of a Democrat, but he does think the country needs new gun control legislation:  “I am a Christian, I own a gun, I am a Democrat and I do believe we need stricter gun laws,” he said.

Koester and his party support the Second Amendment and don’t want to see new limitations placed on the right to bear arms because they feel that would infringe on a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

“It becomes a slippery slope, and once we start letting any of our constitutional rights be eroded, I don’t think that’s where we  need to go,” he said.

Fitzgibbons wouldn’t support legislation keeping civilians from owning any guns, and that’s not the goal of his party, he said, but they do believe there need to be changes to gun control laws, and he singled out background checks as an example.

“Making background checks stricter if you’re a viable person that’s going to be careful with your weapon or handgun, you should be able to own one,” he said. “I’m definitely not against guns.”