Panel offers no quick fixes to gun problems

Nine months ago, Winthrop University student Alena James' father, Wilson James, was shot and killed in Charleston during an attempted robbery.

Wednesday night, Alena James -- who has always considered herself active in different causes -- helped raise awareness about gun control laws while moderating a forum on the topic at Winthrop.

"I'm hoping that what people take away from this forum is the fact that whether or not we have (guns) in our possession, that can impact a multitude of people," she said.

The forum, sponsored by the local chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society and paid for by a grant from the national group, featured law enforcement officials, a professor and local government officials. Around 100 students and community members attended.

No one on the six-member panel was opposed to guns. But no one advocated less regulation of guns, either.

"I have loaded guns in my house, and I know what to do with them," York Mayor Eddie Lee said. "I don't carry them around. ... It's not right to flaunt them in public ... but I do think I have a constitutional right."

The group in large part agreed that there is no perfect solution to problems created by guns and that guns are here to stay. The problem, panelists said, lies with people who shouldn't have guns in the first place using them to commit crimes.

"The ones that are out there violating the laws are the ones we need to be talking to," Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis said.

Attorney and former York County Solicitor Tommy Pope said that in his years as solicitor, it was common to find weapons on people charged with other crimes. People who are determined to get guns will get them, he said, and that's a large part of the problem.

"Criminal intent can trump any good law," Pope said, specifying that he was not directing his comments toward law-abiding citizens.

"If we can make it so inconvenient to have a gun ... then, we can start sending the message that guns aren't the answer."

The forum did not have one clear solution, and panelists said gun-related problems don't either. Laws about who can have guns, how well gun laws are enforced, the way in which criminals are punished for illegally having or using guns and the political aspects of gun control all play into what could eventually be the answer.