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At WCCC discussion, 200 speak against gun control

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Bill Steiner of Donegal makes a statement about a proposed gun restriction during a forum on gun permits at the Westmoreland County Community College on Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jon Held addresses a full room during a forum on gun permits at the Westmoreland County Community College on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

George Wilson of Rostraver simply enjoys target shooting with his son.

He doesn't intend to hurt anyone with his “more than two” guns and thinks disarming law-abiding citizens “is, at best, foolish and folly.”

He and 200 others spoke out against gun control Wednesday and threw their support behind Westmoreland County Sheriff Jon Held who organized a town hall meeting at Westmoreland County Community College.

“It's not what's in your hand that makes you a killer, it's what's in your heart,” Wilson said outside of the forum.

Held coordinated the meeting after a barrage of questions directed to his department and sharp increases recently in the number of people seeking permits to carry concealed weapons. Increases were tied to a mass school shooting in Connecticut in December and President Obama outlining a plan to reduce gun violence in mid-January.

Held read from the Constitution and explained the sheriff's role. He briefly outlined proposed gun control legislation and explained that he promised to uphold the rights of citizens.

“That's my oath and that's what I put my hand on the Bible for,” he said to applause from the crowd.

Dozens of people asked questions and shared concerns during the meeting that lasted more than 90 minutes.

Some cited a need for a better licensing system and school protection while other participants suggested that training should be available for individual citizens to protect themselves and others.

Obama's plan would ban ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, among other things. That's not acceptable to Bill Steiner of Donegal.

Steiner called the limit a “line in the sand between peace and revolution at my residence.”

Paul Upson of Latrobe said gun-related legislation wouldn't be any more effective than drug regulations.

“It has no credibility whatsoever,” Upson said.

Sheriff's department Solicitor Harry F. Smail Jr., who acted as moderator during much of the meeting, offered the audience a legal perspective.

“If we don't stand up now, this year, we're going to get rolled over,” Smail said.

Pushing back against gun legislation will have to start small and with passionate owners, said Anthony P. Sandrick of New Kensington. Sandrick is the judge advocate for the Allegheny Valley Detachment of the Marine Corps League based in Springdale.

“Stand up for your rights,” he said. “Stand up for what you believe in.”

Held seemed pleased with the response and his ability to hear concerns and answer questions. The amount of people in attendance directly reflected the number of phone calls his office has received, he said. Many callers wanted to talk to Held personally or ask his stance on gun control legislation.

“The great turnout shows me that people are concerned,” he said.

Allan Povanda of Salem Township took a strong stance.

“They're going to come, they're going to want the guns,” he said. “I'm not giving mine up.”

“I've never shot anyone, but I'm going to defend my property,” Povanda told Held. “I have your back, I hope you have mine.”

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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