Waynesville Daily Guide ^ | 24 March, 2009 | DawnDee Bostwick
Posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 8:28:12 AM by marktwain
The week Barack Obama was elected president, the amount of criminal background checks related to the purchase of firearms jumped 49 percent over the previous year, FBI statistics show.
It’s a trend that hasn’t ceased to stop, as background checks for firearm purchases have continued to increase in the months following the November election, when compared to the same time a year ago. February alone witnessed a 23.3 percent jump, and January and December weren’t too far ahead, with 29 and 24 percent increases, respectively.
Fears of possible anti-gun legislation that’s being considered by the Obama administration might be contributing to the rise in sales, as well as the teeter-tottering economy. The angst seems to be somewhat legitimate, although at this time it’s unclear whether a push to reinstate the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, commonly referred to as the “assault weapons ban” will be successful.
“Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a press conference last month that focused on growing violence in Mexico.
According to the State Department, drug cartels are using “automatic weapons and grenades” in confrontations against Mexican army and police units. The idea is by putting the ban back in place, the flow of guns into Mexico would be reduced.
Enacted in 1994 under then-president Bill Clinton, the assault weapons ban prohibited 19 specific firearms in addition to the possession, manufacturing and importation of the semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds for civilian use.
Though a bill to reinstate the act hasn’t been introduced in Congress yet, and Holder hasn’t given a timeline for when that might happen, numerous other pieces of legislation have been. Six U.S. House of Representative bills are currently being considered, the most troubling of which, gun-rights advocates say, is H.R. 45, known as the Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009. If the legislation is successful, it would require a license for handguns and semiautomatic firearms, including those people already own. License applicants would have to under go a background check and take a written firearms examination, meant to test the applicant’s knowledge of safe storage and handling of guns, as well as the risks associated with the use of firearms in a home, legal responsibilities of owners of such weapons and “any other subject, as the Attorney General determines to be appropriate.”
Furthermore, “the bill would make it unlawful in nearly all cases to keep any loaded firearm for self-defense. A variety of ‘crimes by omission’… would be created. Criminal penalties of up to ten years and almost unlimited regulatory and inspection authority would be established,” according to Gun Owners of America, a non-profit lobbying organization led by former senator Bill Richardson.
The bill would also make it unlawful to sell or transfer a “qualifying firearm” to any person who is not licensed.
Other legislation includes H.R. 17 which would reaffirm the right to use firearms for self-defense and the defense of a person’s home and family; H.R. 1074 would permit the interstate sale of firearms as long as the laws of the states are complied with and adhere to federal law.
Bill Morris, Military Pro owner, said sales at his shop have increased as rumors about possible legislation circulate.
“A lot of customers are afraid that the guns they enjoy shooting so much for sports are going to be restricted,” Morris said. “A lot of the firearms people use for hunting and have used for a long time are being threatened.”
Morris, who’s owned Military Pro for five years, spent 20 years in law enforcement and said he’s been an active shooter for longer than that, shared his perspective on current legislation, noting that much of it, he doesn’t believe, is responsible.
“It’s kind of like wanting to ban a car with four wheels,” he said, noting that most vehicles do have four wheels, but that doesn’t mean all cars are dangerous. “There’s some responsibility needed when a bill is introduced so that any attempt on a firearm ban would ban something that is truly destructive rather than something blanket,” he said.
Pam Hutsell, the store’s manager, said in addition to the rise in sales, they’re finding its getting more difficult to get certain firearms as manufacturers’ have the items on backorder because of the increase in demand.
“What we’ve found is its been harder to get guns,” Hutsell said. “After the election, it seems like a lot of people were more afraid that there were going to be more (restrictions) put on guns.”
The NRA has come out against any such restrictions, and said of the proposal to make the federal assault weapons ban permanent is unnecessary.
“Studies for Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the National Institute of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found no evidence that gun prohibition or gun control reduces crime,” the NRA-ILA stated.
“Guns that were affected by the ban are used in a only a tiny fraction of violent crime — about 35 times as many people are murdered without any sort of firearm,” the organization said.
A Supreme Court decision in 2003 in the case of Washington, D.C., v Heller, reaffirmed the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to own firearms. The amendment, ratified in 1791, says, “A well regulated miltia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Though the spike in gun sales might be an early overreaction to an uncertain agenda, there’s still plenty of questions lingering that are asking what the government can, and will, actually do.
“I hear a lot of comments daily; ‘What did you hear? What did you hear?’,” Morris said. “We don’t know where it’s going because there’s so many rumors.”
[SEE RESPONSES, ETC….]