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Posted: 1/9/2005 6:55:53 PM EDT
From the "The Daily News Journal...Murfreesbro, Tennesse"


Barrett's Firearms
grabs attention both in Iraq, around U.S. CNN, '60 Minutes' interview manufacturer

By Adam Bryant

DNJ Staff Writer

Barrett's Firearms Manufacturing Inc. in Murfreesboro has been putting its weapons in the hands of young men and women charged with the safekeeping of the United States during war for several years.

"When we talk about service first, we're talking about lives," said Ronnie Barrett, president. "If I built washing machines and it went on the blink, it's no big deal. But if one of my guns goes on the blink it could be a big deal - it could be some mother's son in his last moment of desperation and this piece of equipment didn't do what it was supposed to do. That is not going to happen here."

But another long-standing war has started heating back up on the homefront. Gun-control advocates across the country are pushing for Barrett's .50 caliber rifles to no longer be able to be sold to civilians. Battles for that cause have already been won in California, where the guns were banned from civilian ownership this year.

The issue has raised the eyebrows of several national media outlets including CNN and CBS's "60 Minutes," both of which came to Barrett's Murfreesboro plant to interview him.

Barrett stands firm on the Second Amendment, arguing that gun control groups like the Violence Policy Center, which is looking to take the California victory to Washington, are "infringing" on the constitutional rights of the American people.

"The framers of the Constitution knew exactly how to speak and what words to use," he said. "They used the words, 'shall not be infringed.' They didn't want anyone to even get on the edges of it. But for years we have had politicians infringing on that right and nibbling away at it."

Tennessee is a right-to-carry state and is dominated by supporters of the Second Amendment. John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, said the battles over gun control are usually taken out of context to achieve a greater goal.

"They are attacking a weapon that you don't see a significant use of in criminal conduct in the hopes that if they fall short, other weapons will be regulated," he said. "You have to look at what context they are arguing from. We would oppose any legislation of that nature in this state."

Murfreesboro Police Chief Glenn Chrisman agreed that a .50 caliber weapon is not likely to be seen in the hands of criminals, but he does believe that gun control should be looked at more closely than it sometimes is.

"The thought of a .50 caliber rifle in the hands of a criminal is a frightful thing," he said. "But any weapon in the hands of someone with criminal intent is a danger. We don't see these types of weapons in crime.

"More often, we get rapid-fire assault weapons. There are dangers there, but I don't think banning a .50 caliber is altogether the answer to the question. But we do need to hope that the correct controls are in order and will prevent crimes with guns like these from happening."

The Black Children's Institute of Tennessee was the only institution in the state that signed on in support of the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003 sponsored by the Violence Policy Center. Jaunita Zeasy, executive director of Black Children's Institute, said the group is a non-partisan group that takes a stand against the gun industry for the betterment of children's lives.

"Our major concern are the gun deaths and injuries of children in this state," she said. Even more so, we fight any industry that do not have regulations for consumer protection, and the gun industry is one of the largest. The gun industry is not held accountable to make a safer gun. There are more regulations on a plastic, toy gun or a teddy bear than there are the guns that take lives every day."

While the group fights for such regulations, Zeasy said she knows the battle will be long, and she does not expect a perfect outcome.

"It took almost 20 years to regulate the tobacco industry, so this is going to be a long fight," she said. "But we are making progress. We know we can't win a battle over the NRA, but we would sign on in the hopes that more will be educated about the danger. We want to put a face to the number of children who are hurt or killed, or who lose family members because of guns. Guns kill, and there needs to be some regulation."

But Barrett said the simple truth is that "gun control doesn't work."

"When you take guns away from law-abiding citizens, crime goes up because they are helpless," he said. "They say regulations will stop the terrorists from getting these guns. But terrorists don't respect the law - it's just another law for them to break. Gun control doesn't hurt the terrorists. It hurts the law-abiding citizens who lose their constitutional rights."

Originally published December 19, 2004

My sister and her family moved down there, maybe I should move too.
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