On Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced plans for an executive order that will theoretically close loopholes in purchases from gun shows and gun retailers, although many in the local community do not believe the order will be profitable or make a difference in crime.
According to the Associated Press, the order “aims to narrow the so-called gun show loophole that allows some purchases to occur without a background check.” It will “expand background checks for buyers,” and those who have businesses selling firearms must become registered as licensed gun dealers. The loophole in question involves or “exempts” smaller gun retailers from “keeping formal sales records.” Obama’s order proposes to bridge that gap.
With the Iowa caucuses nearing, the issue has had divided response in the Republican camp and on the Democratic side. But in Sedalia, many people seem to be on the same page.
“Theoretically it sounds good, but not so much in practice,” Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said Tuesday from his office. “I think that’s going to be hard to do. They might be able to regulate gun shows, but the fact is that won’t change the ability for me to sell you a gun. Which is perfectly legal and doesn’t require the (background) checks.
“My belief in this whole process is that it’s being approached from the wrong standpoint,” he added. “The crime that I deal with, that my officers deal with on a day-to-day basis, that involves firearms, those firearms have been acquired not from a business, who has complied with the rules and regulations, but through other means.”
Bond said criminals will obtain firearms through burglary or purchasing them through the black market.
“The criminals who are in possession of guns can’t obtain guns in the current legal way,” he noted. “So, imposing more restrictions on people who legally acquire guns is not going to have the intended effect that (Obama) is purporting.”
Bond added that most crimes are committed with handguns.
“Handguns are usually transportable, they are easily stolen, they are easily sold,” he said. “That’s one issue. The second issue, it seems nobody wants to talk about, is the mental state especially of these large scale shootings.”
Bond referenced recent shootings other than terrorism.
“The common denominator outside of guns is the person’s mental stability and mental state,” he added.
Bond said he had instituted the Stepping Up Initiative last year. The Initiative brings together “multiple disciplines within the community” to try and help with mental health issues in Pettis County. At present he is seeing a large number of those with mental issues being kept at the Pettis County Jail.
He added that although Obama is addressing the gun issue, no one seems to be addressing the mental health side of the problem. All the while, he said, few resources, treatment, assistance and support are being provided to those who need mental health care locally and nationwide.
“County jails are becoming the insane asylums of the ’50s and ’60s,” Bond said.”The real problem we have here is the failure to address the mental health crisis that we have in our country. That’s the unspoken portion that we in criminal justice blatantly see every day, but nobody wants to talk about.”
He added that the mental health aspect is what really needs to be addressed in Obama’s executive order.
“… The worst of those are out there causing these mass shootings,” he added. “If you look and go over it again and again, whether it’s Sandy Hook or Colorado Springs, you can see that guy has something wrong there, and it’s not been addressed in our system.
“I have people on a daily basis that come in and get their conceal-and-carry permits, I’m not worried about those people,” Bond said. “Those people are doing it the legal way.”
Two local gun stores declined to comment on Obama’s executive order. Sedalia’s Family Pawn Manager Tony Knierim said the business owner was out of town and he couldn’t speak for him. Larry Bell, owner of Osage Thrift Shop, also decided not to comment.
“I don’t think it’s going to make any difference,” he added.
Dale Vinson, owner of Vinson’s Pawn Gun & Ammo, said he’d be glad to voice his concerns.
“He’s an idiot!” Vinson said of Obama.
He added that the order could delay the purchase of firearms.
“That will make it a little tougher for us,” he said. “It’s gotten tougher under his administration anyway. The system don’t run like it should.”
Vinson said he’s spent up to an hour on the phone, on hold, procuring a background check.
“I don’t know what the answer is … but it don’t have anything to do with the guns, it’s got to do with the people who have possession of them,” he said. “Enforce the laws you’ve already got, (and) everything else will come in line. The way I feel about it … if a criminal that’s prohibited from having a gun gets caught with a gun they can give them automatically 10 years in the pen. But they don’t enforce that. There’s the big problem right there.”
He added that 2 percent of assault rifles are used in crime. He sells approximately 100 guns a month from his family- owned business that has been in business 40 years.
“There’s no easy answer, that’s why I’m saying this guy’s an idiot,” Vinson said.
He has seen an increase in gun purchases each time there are talks about gun control.
“His administration has probably created some of the problems we’ve got with too many guns,” Vinson added.
He said people who normally wouldn’t buy a gun are purchasing them because they are afraid that the government will pass laws prohibiting their sale.
On Tuesday by phone, Sedalia Police Department Chief John DeGonia said he shared similar views with Bond.
“I would have to agree with that,” he said. “The bad guys are always going to get guns illegally, where the good people go through the channels and do it the right way.
“There are issues of people with mental health needs,” he added. “I think that’s a whole separate issue.”
Those people need help, he noted.
“If somebody wants to get a gun bad enough they’re going to get one,” DeGonia said. “There has to be some other loopholes closed too, I think, in the gun laws. Because if you go to a pawn shop or someplace that sells guns you have to have a background check. But, I believe, if you go to a garage sale you can buy a gun (without a background check). Nothing’s perfect and I realize they are still working toward those goals.”
He added that his personal opinion was the executive order wouldn’t make a difference.
“People may disagree with me, but I have no problem with the good people being armed,” DeGonia said.
Stefanie Aziere-Sattler, of Florence, who teaches conceal-and carry classes, said she looked over the 23 executive orders Obama signed today.
“I feel that addressing the mental health issues is absolutely needed in our country,” she said by email. “It’s problems with this health issue and quite honestly a lack of responsible parenting that has led us to this point. However, I do not agree with the action to change background checks. To require law-abiding citizens to endure more financial or undue stress to obtain a firearm is wrong.
“Law-abiding citizens are not the people going out and committing these crimes,” she added. “Much of what (Obama) always speaks about in reference to gun violence is all doom and gloom, and its always those bad assault rifles … causing these problems … that’s such a farce. It’s creating drama and getting the American public to think of guns in a negative light. I disagree with that whole direction.”
She added that guns are only a “tool” and that each person in the United States has a right to defend themselves if the “need arises.”
The National Rifle Association Field Representative for Missouri Travis W. Scott was also asked his opinion on the executive order. He referred all questions and inquiries to NRA ILA/PR and Communications Representative Andrew Arulanandam. Arulanandam had not replied by press time.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.