As expected, reaction was swift following Wednesday’s speech by President Barack Obama calling for stricter gun control laws.
Obama is calling for background checks on all gun sales, regardless of where they are bought, and issued 23 executive actions that do not require congressional approval.
The president also called on Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault rifles and limit high capacity magazines to 10 rounds for all weapons. He also urged the public to pressure
Congress and the gun lobby to work for stronger steps against gun violence.
“The only way we can change is if the American people demand it,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita released a statement shortly after the president’s speech saying that Obama’s gun control proposals are a “radical overreach by a power-hungry executive branch that is committed to restricting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, without any concern for either the constitution or how this plan would actually work in the real world.
“More laws and regulations will not and cannot stop evil,” Rokita continued. “Only strong families and communities can. Instead of focusing on the real reasons for criminal and violent activity, the White House wants to restrict the rights of conscientious, patriotic, and responsible gun owners who, quite often, deter violent criminals.”
Rokita said he can be counted on to pursue every constitutionally-available means to stop the new gun control measures from taking effect and will “help lead the conversation in the halls of Congress.”
Local law enforcement echoed a similar sentiment.
Hendricks County Sheriff Dave Galloway said he watched the press briefing Obama held with great interest.
“I’m not a gun fanatic, but I am a believer in the Constitution,” Galloway said. “I’m a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment and believe in the right for law abiding citizens to bear arms.”
He said it’s not the guns that are the problem, it’s the people behind the guns.
“I’m speaking with 42 years of experience in law enforcement,” he said. “I’ve never had to arrest a gun.”
Galloway said he believes the government has made too many cuts in funding help for mental health issues.
“Most states have shut down their state-supported mental hospitals,” Galloway said. “So a lot of those mentally ill people are living among us. They just don’t think like normal folks. I’ve spoken with many sheriffs from all over the state and they all say the same thing — we’re housing people with mental and emotional problems.”
He said society has given up on the idea that people are responsible for their own actions.
“We just want to blame everyone else,” he said. “I want Hendricks County to be a safe place to live. I want the United States to be a safe place to live. But it won’t be until we do something about these criminals. I listen to all these education people talk about gun control and am flabbergasted by what they say.”
Galloway said school safety is a top priority for law enforcement in Hendricks County.
“We have excellent working relationships with the other departments and the schools,” he said. “We want our kids to be safe. I think we’re ahead of the curve on training for active shooters.”
Local citizens also expressed a variety of concerns with Obama’s proposals on the Hendricks County Flyer’s Facebook page.
“Criminals and evil people will still find a way to harm people,” said
Diana Moore, expressing doubt that banning guns will curb violence from those that are hell-bent on committing crimes anyway.
Jason Keep of Plainfield said he agrees with some of the proposed gun control reform ideas, but says the focus should be not on weapons, but the people potentially obtaining those weapons.
“I am against banning the so-called assault rifles and high capacity magazines,” he wrote. “I am for looking into the mental health issues and getting more help in that area. I am very okay with adding a mandatory 10 extra years for committing a crime with a firearm. Banning guns will not help anyone.”
Darian Wilson added, “No firearm has ever assaulted anyone.
Criminals do. So let’s talk about the moral decay of American society where people have no sense of right and wrong.”
Tracy Turner of Avon wrote, “I’m not against owning guns, just against owning military-style weapons. They need to be in the hands of military professionals.”
Still, others say that the main thing that came from Obama’s proposals is that the nation can start having serious talks about action and what needs to be done in the end.
“Obama floated a proposal for consideration, a starting point for serious discussion,” offered Jim Barlow.
Others are concerned about the precedent it sets more than anything.
“The Second Amendment says ‘shall not be infringed.’ I’m not sure what is confusing about that,” offered Kyle McInnes of Avon. “The oath of office he took, and will take again later this month, was to protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.
Washington as a whole keeps taking and/or restricting liberties every day. It is sad that so many honorable men and women have died protecting these freedoms throughout our nation’s history for politicians to stomp all over those freedoms in a knee-jerk reaction to appear that they are doing something meaningful. Washington is broken on both sides.”
Doug Wilber also said it was a violation of people’s rights.
“The Second Amendment was created so that the people, that would be us, could use them to overthrow an evil, out of control government,” he wrote. “I believe that our grandchildren will pay for what is to come. We failed to protect their rights because we were either too afraid or apathetic to do something. The day a person supports gun control is the day they no longer feel it is necessary to take care of themselves but instead give that responsibility over to the government.”
Brownsburg Town Councilman Rob Kendall said Obama’s proposals go way overboard.
“Government is best at punishing the responsible majority because of the irresponsible minority,” Kendall said. “You’re never going to be able to 100 percent protect evil people from doing evil things. Law abiding citizens should have the opportunity to defend themselves with the same weaponry that will be used against them.”
One offshoot of Obama’s comments has been a surge in gun interest and sales, with some gun shop owners joking that Obama may be named their “salesman of the month.”
Scott Daugherty, owner of Fort Liberty Firearms at 8401 E. U.S. 36, Suite C, Avon, said the threat of strict gun reforms has caused sales to skyrocket.
“There’s nothing that could have matched what we’re seeing right now, it’s really unbelievable,” he said. “We’re selling out of everything — not just guns ... I’m out of cleaning kits. I’m (running) out of everything.”
James Warren, a nearly three-year employee for the gun shop, which has been open since late 2008, agreed.
“I have never seen sales like this, (it’s) an all-time record high,” Warren said. “We normally stock over 300 firearms. I am now down to about 25. They cannot be restocked fast enough.”
Warren, who considers himself an “informed enthusiast,” said unknowns about what will happen are driving the sales.
“It’s pretty early to say what’s going to happen, what was passed (Tuesday) were recommendations that need to go before Congress,” he said. “I don’t know. I wish I had those answers. We’re in uncharted territory. That’s why everybody is very nervous and purchasing any firearm they can get a hold of, because everybody is very unsure of what the future holds.”
Both men said they feel the Obama administration is taking the wrong angle on gun control reforms.
Warren said Fort Liberty Firearms does its part in helping curb gun violence and that the government needs to focus on the shooter, not the firearm.
“I think they’re going about it in the wrong direction,” Warren said. “We (Fort Liberty Firearms) do our part to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. We do background checks here at the store. Any firearm sold at a store, especially Fort Liberty, goes through a national background check through the FBI. In my opinion, what needs to be done is we need to explore the mental health issue in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s kind of taken a back seat lately. If we look past mass shootings, what is the common denominator? (It’s) mental health issues. Nobody wakes up one day and decides to shoot 20 kids or shoot up a movie theater.”
Warren added that guns are being unfairly targeted.
“It’s easy to target the guns because they’re just an object, but unfortunately (the shootings are) done by human beings,” he said.
“There’s always going to be evil in this world. I think they’re going about it in the wrong way. If somebody is bound and determined to commit mass murder, they’re going to do it, regardless of what laws are on the books.”
Daugherty said it’s unnerving to see the government attack constitutional rights.
“There are so many things in this country that kill people each year, and they’re really focused on this one thing ... the second amendment right,” he said. “How long before they start attacking your first amendment right?”
He said he feels the proposed gun control reforms are just another way for the government to gain more control.
“Gun control is not about the guns, it’s absolutely just about the control,” he said.
Editor’s note: There will undoubtedly be follow up stories on the issue of the president’s gun control proposals. Please visit the Hendricks County Flyer on Facebook or send a letter to the editor to share your views. We welcome opinions from both sides of the controversy.