Now that President Barack Obama has decided to try bypassing Congress to pursue firearms measures through executive action, the American public has predictably taken sides.
National polls suggest most Americans are OK with the president’s measures. But firearms rights advocates, particularly the National Rifle Association, worry that giving ground will invite the government to take more, and they are digging their legal trenches in anticipation of a court battle.
Locally, there is a split in opinion about whether the president can or should take executive action on firearms, with those opposed in a majority — or at least a plurality, according to a website poll by the Daily Press.
Todd Boyle assumed ownership of BS&G Pawn from his father at the beginning of the year. He anticipates little change in his sales routine.
“We do background checks, absolutely,” Boyle said. “For us, this wouldn’t change anything at all. I believe Obama’s actions would amount to nothing in the gun world. They really don’t enforce anything, and they won’t change whether the wrong people get hold of guns.”
Dean Harris, owner of Skeets Gun Shop, doesn’t sell firearms, but is a gunsmith. He also anticipates little change if the executive actions survive examination by the courts.
“Political grandstanding — that’s what I think,” Harris said. “I think this will draw attention away from many other troubled areas.”
In a Facebook comment to the TDP during the most recent Saturday Forum, former GOP County Chairman Shannon Grimes expressed doubts about the effect of any executive maneuver on firearms.
“Despite emotional appeals and likely crocodile tears, the proposals are unlikely to curtail any of the problems used to warrant the actions,” Grimes wrote. “It likely will succeed in creating more hassles, hurdles, and expense for citizens [who] are nominally not the targets.”
Many who contributed to the Saturday Forum on the TDP Facebook page expressed discomfort with the executive actions. Some thought it was a first step toward further public disarmament, while others believed the motivations were misguided.
Christopher Kyle Barnhart wrote: “This is just another step toward disarming the citizens, in my opinion. We don’t have a gun problem; it’s a people problem.”
Dakota Beckham wrote: “More laws will only restrict law-abiding citizens. Criminals do not obey the laws that we already have. It’s a tired argument, but it’s true.”
Others did support the executive measures.
“I applaud President Obama for trying to deal with this problem,” wrote Glenda Brookerd Pate. “I truly don’t understand how good, honest, law-abiding citizens can be so vehemently opposed to licensing, regulation and tracking. I’ve read the opposition arguments…. Tightening and clarifying existing regulations, hiring more agents to facilitate faster background checks and enforcing existing regulations and channeling more money into the mental health system might not help. True. That shouldn’t stop us from trying. In my view, we would be remiss if we didn’t.”
There was very little common ground among viewpoints in the online poll put up by the Daily Press. The poll question was: “Among other things, the executive ‘gun control’ action taken by President Obama would expand background checks; hire more FBI examiners for those checks; require gun sellers to obtain licenses; require dealers to notify the ATF if guns are lost or stolen in transit; research smart gun technology; and improve mental health care. No confiscation of weapons is part of the plan. Do you agree with the plan?”
Half of all respondents said they “do not support” the measures “in any way,” while 40 percent said they “support” the executive actions “completely.” Five percent said “I support some if it, but very little,” while the remaining 5 percent were undecided.
Proving most contentious — and most certain to draw a lawsuit — among Obama’s executive actions is the measure to extend background checks to more gun show sales. The president wants to broaden the definition of those “engaged in the business” of selling firearms.
Currently, firearm dealers conduct background checks, but anybody “who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms,” need not conduct checks.
There is no set number of sales to qualify someone as a firearms dealer, and the White House doesn’t want a number, according to some legal experts. The Obama administration hopes to demand background checks by those who earn some portion of their income from selling firearms, but does not want to impose the requirement on hobbyists or an individual selling off a personal gun collection.
Some who oppose the new gun measures said their problems with regulation were superseded by Obama resorting to executive action.
“I believe it’s just a huge overreach on his part, as many executive actions are,” Boyle said.
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