Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said while he would support stronger background checks for the purchase of guns, he does not favor any new laws restricting types of weapon or magazine capacities.

“I don’t have a problem with law-abiding citizens owning any kind of gun,” Toelke said. “But I have a problem with felons and certain mentally ill people having guns.”

Toelke said restricting certain types of weapons, like assault rifles, would not help prevent situations like the recent mass killings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and called it “feel good” legislation.

“Gun control is not the answer to this,” Toelke said. “When concealed carry laws were adopted, people were saying there would be shoot-outs in the streets and innocent people would be hurt. That hasn’t happened.”

While no actual legislation has been proposed yet, some government officials and others have been calling for stricter controls on weapons.

That has drawn sharp responses from some sheriffs in Missouri and around the country, including some who say they won’t enforce new laws if they feel they violate the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

“I would support background checks to keep weapons out of the hands of convicted felons or those with certain types of mental illness provided local law enforcement would be involved in the background check process,” Toelke told The Missourian. He said local law enforcement officials are more familiar with the backgrounds of local citizens than federal officials.

“Mental health issues need to be addressed. Jails do not need to be holding facilities for the mentally ill,” Toelke said. “Law enforcement needs to be aware of the mental health history of some people. Those would need to be kept confidential within law enforcement as are some other records we currently access.

“People would be amazed if they knew about how many people with mental issues that we deal with all the time,” he added.

Entertainment Media

“In my personal opinion, the entertainment media standards and values along with some, not all, of their products are eroding our standards and values as a nation,” the sheriff remarked.  

“Years ago, if someone of importance was arrested they would have been shunned. Today, their popularity seems to increase. Whatever has caused some of us to reach that perspective — that being arrested or acting badly is a cool thing — is also part of the problem of desensitizing our people, causing little regard for human life. Standards, values, and mental health are significant factors in the cause of these cases,” he commented.

The sheriff said he has had citizens ask for his position on the potential for legislation regarding the confiscation of weapons.

“I do not feel there will be any legislation demanding confiscation of weapons from law-abiding citizens,” Toelke remarked. “However, if that should ever happen, my office would not be involved.

“I won’t be a part of anything like confiscation of weapons,” he said. “That would be a violation of the Constitution.”