Gun owners wary of impending legislation
Gun control has raged on the sidelines of campaigns and political debates for years – a go-to, hot button topic – but for many people across the nation the recent shooting in Connecticut could be the catalyst that brings about real reforms.
When 20-year-old Adam Peter Lanza went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, shooting and killing 20 first graders and six adults, the gravity of the act shocked Americans. As the breaking news reports filed in, as more commentators asked their question, the gun control debate quickly heated up. Should we be able to buy assault rifles? How are we screening for mentally ill in firearm transactions?
Camps formed, polarizing the national tragedy. On one side, reformists are crying for stricter laws. On the other side, gun owners are worried, wondering what may be coming down the line. But in all the discussions, some long-time gun enthusiasts, business owners and industry leaders are asking just how much the public knows, and understands, current gun laws and the potential impact gun control reform.
Parkite Danial Labov, a co-owner of the Park City Gun Club, said it’s not as much about reforms as making hasty decisions in attempts to push through legislation.
"I believe in the Second Amendment. It is important and it is absolute," Labov said. "We should not restrict a person’s ability to buy and own guns.
"In response to tragedies like this when we pass regulations, the law-abiding citizens will abide by the law. The criminals, the crazy people, will not. It’s not a level playing field. Many of these tragedies have taken place where the perpetrator knew, or had reason to believe, the victims would be unable to defend themselves."
In the Aurora, Colo. shooting, media outlets and law enforcement speculated on the reason why shooter James Holmes chose a theater 20 miles from his home when several others were closer by, according to several news sources. The Cinemark Theater Holmes chose was not the closest, but it was the only theater in the area with a gun-free policy in place.
Like Aurora, the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a gun-free zone, and in the wake of the shooting, more people are asking if reform is the better option weighed against putting more guns in the hands of conscious owners. A retired CIA officer living Cedar City sent a notice around the state, that all Utah teachers would be able to take a free concealed carriers course in the hopes that guns in teachers’ hands would prevent another shooting. Even in Park City, Labov has received several emails asking whether he would consider offering free or reduced courses for teachers.
Sales on semi-automatic weapons, on rifles, have skyrocketed following the election in November, and even more so since the Connecticut shooting.
"Gun sales are through the roof," Labov said, "not just for us but throughout the country. People are very frightened that there will be new restrictions on gun sales, either on the types of firearms you can buy or the procedure involved in buying."
Though the Kamas-based Hatch Firearms closed its doors earlier this year, owner Jason Hatch has retained his licenses to sell firearms as well as kept in touch with old industry contacts and former customers.
"Firearm owners will be affected, and that includes the entire industry," Hatch said, "from owners to distributors to manufacturers."
One of the biggest issues with the gun control debate is that so many Americans, gun owners included, do not know enough about the gun industry, the weapons available at market and the laws, he said. The most popular types of rifles sold in America today are semi-automatic weapons, meaning rounds are fired after every pull of the trigger. Lanza was carrying a Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic rifle when he attacked the school, according to a report from The New York Times. Fully-automatic weapons, or assault rifles, are mostly used by military and police officers with limited amounts available to the public, guns such as the AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.
"There is a lot of volatility around this subject," Hatch added. "But no regulation will help us in the end until we look at the truth and start to analyze how these things happen. Sensible laws could be created, especially with uncontrolled firearm purchases, but we firearm laws that do make sense."
Hatch was referring to current Utah law that allows anyone to buy, sell or trade a gun if it is a private sale. Unlike licensed gun stores, private sellers and gun show retailers are not required to complete a background check on the buyer.
"When someone buys a gun here, they have to fill out a form," Labov said. "We have to certify the buyer is not a convicted felon, subject to a restraining order involving domestic violence or has any drug offenses. These days, here in Utah, they can run that check very quickly. The customer fills out the form, we double-check it, call the BCI and they can by phone or fax check in a matter of minutes."
Recently-elected Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson has a stake in gun manufacturing, a partner of the family business Robinson Armament Company, yet his views on guns is straddled between upholding rights and preventing violence.
"We ought to sit down and see how we can keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill," Robinson said, " when you start shooting 6-year-old, we have a problem."
"It’s a tough issue. The Second Amendment is near and dear to many people," he added. "Regulation has to be done carefully, but there is room for improvement. We are likely to see changes."
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