On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced a sweeping gun-control package that, if passed by Congress, will come with a $500 million price tag.
Obama admits he faces heavy opposition in getting his proposals passed, which include requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among other policies.
The action came about as a result of a number of gun violence incidents since Obama was elected – most recently, the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Newly-elected District 2 Congressman Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., said Obama’s proposals would usher in the most sweeping change in gun control laws since the 1960s, and he opposes them on principle.
“The president is politicizing a national tragedy to impose his own personal agenda,” said Mullin. “This is outrageous and an outright assault on civil liberties. I strongly oppose restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms and will do everything I can to protect our Second Amendment rights.”
Tony Boyle, owner of BS&G Pawn Shop, said a good deal of his trade involves firearms. He doesn’t deal with “assault rifles” – semi-automatic rifles with magazine clips that hold more than 10 bullets.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in trading in [assault rifles]; I just don’t want to mess with them,” said Boyle. “If you want to buy one, I don’t have a problem with that, either; I just don’t want to facilitate it.”
Boyle said the Bushmaster M-16 with an extended magazine – meaning it holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition – is the type of firearm used in many of the gun violence incidents.
“And as far as the extended magazine – and this is a personal issue – I see no use for anything that holds more than 10 rounds,” said Boyle. “If you need more than that, you need to take a shooting class.”
Boyle disagrees with the president’s proposals, saying many law-abiding citizens own guns, and use them to defend themselves and their property.
“On the back side of this, during the Los Angeles riots, many Korean shopkeepers stood on the roofs of their businesses with assault rifles, preventing looters,” said Boyle. “When an assault weapon is used in that context, it’s perfectly fine. The gun is not the criminal; it’s the idiot behind it.”
Boyle is required to complete a U.S. Department of Justice Firearms Transaction Record for every firearm he sells. The form is used solely to check the background of the individual purchasing the gun, not the weapon itself. Under the president’s proposal, all gun sales – including those made at gun shows and between individuals – will have to be recorded in the same way.
“Now we’ll have ‘universal background checks,’” said Boyle. “How is that going to work? They’re creating laws that cannot be enforced. What are you going to do? Put an ATF agent on every corner? I can’t see that as a solution.”
Boyle admits gun violence needs to be addressed, but disagrees with how the administration is going about making changes.
“The responsibility cannot be solely placed on the backs of the hunters and sportsmen,” said Boyle. “I try to be as protective of safety in my community as I can be. I’m also protecting my business and my ATF license.”
The ATF visits Boyle’s shop periodically, conducting rigorous reviews of his documentation and inventory.
“If they come in, and I have one hair out of place, I can lose my license,” said Boyle. “Guns are a really big part of my trade.”
Boyle was dismayed when Vice President Joe Biden selected entities to discuss solutions to gun violence.
“He talked to people from Walmart, Cabellas, Bass Pro, and others, but did not have a single representative of the pawn industry involved in the talks,” said Boyle. “I sell more guns than Walmart.”
Boyle admits he doesn’t have a solution to fixing gun violence, but believes it involves more than limiting access to guns and ammunition.
“I think movies, video games, bullying, all of those have something to do with [the climate of violence in the U.S.],” said Boyle. “I also believe there is a lack of discipline in families. There are a half-dozen gun dealers in Tahlequah. I know each of them individually, and they are all hard-working businessmen and are as protective of their community, business and livelihood as I am.”
The Daily Press asked its Facebook “friends” for their opinions on Obama’s proposals.
“There are already background checks for new gun sales,” said Darcy Hicks. “There are too many guns out there to be able to enforce private sales’ background checks. The ban on assault weapons will have to pass Congress; good luck with that. The country had 10-round clip limits for 10 years, I don’t recall it slowed anyone down; just carry two clips instead of one. Not for sure, but I thought it was already unlawful to own armor-piercing bullets. Regardless, outlawing armor-piercing bullets will have zero effect on curtailing crime. Has there not already been different packages and funds over the years for hiring new police officers? I thought there was already a gun-trafficking statute. [Obama] recommended establishing the interim director of the ATF as its new director. That is not exactly cutting-edge lawmaking. All the president did was make recommendations for things that already exist.”
Some respondents believe no number of new laws will prevent criminals from committing gun violence.
“Taking guns from law-abiding citizens will not help [reduce] gun violence in any way,” said Keith Moore. “Let’s face it, guns are here and here to stay; criminals will always have access to guns, so [we] law-abiding citizens are going to need [guns] to protect our families. The only way to stop a bad guy [who has a gun] is a good guy with a gun. What happened [Wednesday] won’t make our kids any safer; it’s just our government trying to disarm Americans.”
Several respondents pointed out none of Obama’s proposals included taking guns away from citizens.
“This president is not trying to take our guns away,” said Billie Ruth Walker. “It’s my opinion that in making assault weapons illegal, the president is doing what the people want: Trying to protect our society from our own senseless and foolish behavior.”
Hamid Vahdatipour said people need to exercise reason to find a viable solution.
“I wonder how many children this mentally sick person could have hurt if he only had his bare hands, or on the other end of the scale, how many would have been killed if he could have bought a grenade launcher or a tank?” said Vahdatipour. “We just have to be reasonable.”
Orel Dugger doesn’t believe limiting ammunition is a solution.
“The president punted,” said Dugger. “The only difference between a so-called assault rifle and a regular one is cosmetic. As to magazines, one can load three, 10-round magazines in only a few seconds longer than it takes to load a 30-round magazine. The higher-capacity magazines are actually a disadvantage because of their bulk – especially in semi-automatic pistols. None of the president’s recommended measures will or would have prevented what happened in the school massacre. Enforce the existing laws.”
A number of Daily Press Facebook friends wholly endorse Obama’s proposals.
“I can’t think of a legitimate reason to be against the proposed measures,” said Steve Cypert. “Most of the overly emotional comments made against the president’s proposals reinforce in me the notion that gun enthusiasts (as opposed to gun owners) don’t listen to reason and don’t make coherent arguments for letting them keep their military-style assault weapons. People who can’t make coherent arguments fail to reassure me I am safer with them around. Those incoherent arguments also help to convince me the overwrought gun enthusiast has emotional problems and shouldn’t be trusted with a gun at all.”
Pauline Musgrove supports any measure that sparks a conversation about reducing violence.
“I looked at the president’s actions [Wednesday] as a start,” said Musgrove. “We need solutions, not criticism. Nobody is taking guns away from anyone; however, there are parents of 20 babies who were killed who are looking for solutions, and it is up to us, we, the people, to help provide those solutions. We owe that much to those babies.”
B.J. Boyd was among several respondents who believe expanding mental health services would help in reducing gun violence.
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