By Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Momentum for some type of gun control appears to be mounting in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
Even as the debate heats up, brisk gun sales continue.
There were 26 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 20 schoolchildren and six staff members. The shooter also killed his mother and himself.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Vice President Joe Biden said he will deliver his proposals to President Barack Obama by Tuesday. Biden said that while he had not completed his recommendations, a consensus was emerging over banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and tightening background checks.
In a statement, the National Rifle Association said it will continue its fight against gun control efforts.
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and husband, Mark Kelly, launched an effort to counter the gun lobby this week. They announced the campaign on the second anniversary of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that left Giffords with serious injuries and killed six.
A school shooting in California on Thursday seriously injured one student. The alleged shooter also is a student.
FIRST TO GO
Steve Richards, the owner of Steve’s Trading Post in Joplin, and a few of his customers on Wednesday said nothing that has been proposed will work. Richards said he thinks some gun restrictions are likely.
“That’s probably going to be the first thing to go,” Richards said, holding a .22-caliber, AR-15 semiautomatic rife, similar to the one Adam Lanza used in Newtown.
It and other military-style rifles also have been among the best-selling at Steve’s Trading Post as talk has turned to gun control following the school shooting. Richards said customers think they won’t be able to purchase something, or that it will be too expensive, if they don’t buy it now.
Richards said the store had to build additional gun racks to hold new supply, with some of the racks now empty or near empty. There was a steady flow of customers in the store early Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s been three or four times our normal volume” for the Christmas season, Richards said. “The background check system has been totally backed up. At one point, there were 400 customers waiting for approval to buy a gun.”
In 2011, there were almost 400,000 applications from prospective gun owners for background checks in Missouri with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. That had increased to 513,303 in 2012, including 81,243 in December alone.
Despite the current brisk sales, Richards said it could all end if strong gun control measures are enacted.
“When the Brady Bill was approved, our business dropped by a third,” Richards said.
PRIVATE SALES AT SHOWS
Among the measures that have been floated are a renewal of the 1994 assault weapons ban, a limitation on the amount of ammunition in clips and magazines, and strengthening requirements for sales at gun shows.
There is no federal regulation of private gun sales at gun shows, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. State regulations vary from state to state. There’s no requirement for background checks for private gun sales in Missouri.
Rick Kehrli, with R.K. Shows Inc., of Manchester, Iowa, promotes gun shows in Missouri and other states. His next Joplin gun show is Feb. 9 and 10 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center. He said he will comply with whatever the law is in a particular state.
“I’m pretty open-minded,” Kherli said. “I do shows in Colorado, where background checks are required for all sales. We do just fine. I almost look at that more as a states’ rights issue.”
He said he hasn’t seen a lot of opposition to his gun shows, except for a few protesters here and there.
“Outside of that, we’ve been doing a lot of business lately,” he said.
Biden has said President Obama may pursue some measures using executive order.
“Mostly, legislation in the past has placed more restriction on individuals who don’t break the law,” Richards said, adding that he doesn’t favor any of the proposals he has heard. “A lot of guns used in crimes have been stolen.”
He said many of those involved in the mass shootings have had mental illness or other issues.
“Gun control might be the buzzword, but where do you stop?” he said. “It’s not going to solve the issue to make our schools safer.”
Carlos Alvarez, a Webb City resident, called himself a passionate gun-rights supporter. He was shopping for supplies at Steve’s Trading Post.
He said he thinks the Constitution has been negated. He said because of measures including the Patriot Act, all the government needs to do is label someone as a terrorist and he or she has no rights.
He said regulation of guns is no answer.
“It’s a violent culture,” he said. “Guns are just a tool. The problem is people.”
He said other weapons represent a bigger problem than guns.
But FBI murder statistics from 2011 state there were 12,664 people murdered that year in the U.S. Of those, 496 were caused by blunt instruments, including hammers and baseball bats. There were 8,583 murders with guns. Knives and other cutting instruments accounted for 1,694 murders.
Kari Most, of La Russell, was at Steve’s Trading Post to buy a handgun. The background check system delayed her application, so she made a down payment until the application is approved. A worker told her that the delay may be caused by the number of applications in the system.
“I think people who own guns are going to be responsible, or not,” Most said. “The bad guys are always going to get weapons, so the good guys should have them.”
She said she recently had to travel to Bass Pro Shop in Springfield to find ammunition.
“Ammo is really hard to find these days,” she said.
David Riggs, of Joplin, was shopping at Steve’s for a semiautomatic rifle for hunting and target shooting. He said he wasn’t interested in buying a military-style weapon. He said most of those who commit mass shootings are sick.
“I have some doubts about how effective further gun control will be,” Riggs said of the national discussion.
He said he also didn’t think further gun control would be possible.
“The NRA is so powerful, so influential,” Riggs said. “I think the NRA is more of a political organization than it used to be. It’s an adjunct to the Republican Party.”
Riggs added that he is a member of the NRA and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
“For us (gun owners), that’s the overriding issue,” he said. “I think we need that constitutional protection.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A coalition of gun rights and conservative groups has proclaimed Saturday, Jan. 19, as Gun Appreciation Day, urging Americans to show their support for gun ownership by turning out at gun stores, gun shows and gun ranges on that day. The focus of the protest is President Barack Obama, in advance of his inauguration.