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Mixed Local Reaction to Obama Gun Proposal

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
With tears running down his cheeks, U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and about his efforts to increase federal gun control in the East Room of the White House.

UPDATE: Gov. Walker has asked Wisconsin's AG to review the President's plan and to challenge it, if it appears to contain illegalities.

President Obama has found it impossible to get lawmakers to agree to tighter gun laws, so on Tuesday, with only about a year left in his final term, he announced he would sidestep Congress. Mr. Obama issued an executive order, making it more difficult for some people to purchase firearms.

The cornerstone of the president’s plan is to require anyone selling a firearm to check the background of the interested customer. Right now, when guns are sold at show or by an individual, background checks are not required. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn says the current law makes it all too easy for criminals to access firearms.

“Straw purchasers, girlfriends, go to big box stores and buy firearms on order. They come home, give one to their boyfriend and they can sell the rest. We catch a bad guy with one of those guns, all the original straw purchaser has to say is I forgot to report it stolen. Cause there’s no law in Wisconsin requiring the reporting of stolen guns. There’s no law requiring secondary background checks,” Flynn says.

Flynn says the president’s action will make it easier for law enforcement to go after the people who initially purchase guns for those who cannot legally buy them. According to the chief, what the president is proposing is common sense, but Flynn says those opposed any change when it comes to access to guns will find fault.

“I mean they use the logic of bad guys will find a way to get guns as a way to try to prevent any reform on the background check issue, thereby removing from them any obligation to do anything. The logic of their argument is murderers will murder so why make murder against the law. The logic of their argument is robbers will rob so why make robbery against the law. Criminals will get guns, why prohibit them from getting guns? It’s the height of logical foolishness, but logic doesn’t govern this debate,” Flynn says.

Flynn says unfortunately, hysteria is what tends to win the debate over gun laws.

Jon McGehee is the manager at Chris’ Guns in Reedsburg. I found him through a posting on a website called Armslist. It allows individuals and businesses people to post guns they want to sell.

“The slow movers as far as our weapons we do post on Armslist or if we get a special weapon that might be of interest to somebody as far as a collector, we’ll put that on Armslist as well,” McGehee says.

The executive action would not impact McGehee’s store because the law already requires it to conduct background checks. He agrees with the notion that not everyone should be allowed to have weapons, but was hesitant to say background checks should be required with all gun sales.

“There’s many people who shouldn’t be allowed to have guns. I mean anybody that has been adjudicated, mentally incompetent, any felons, anybody who has ever been convicted of a crime of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence. Any of these types of people,” McGehee says.

I respond, “I find it really interesting then that you won’t say that any firearms sold, no matter by whom, a background check should have to be run.”

“We’ll really you know, I haven’t really had time to digest it since I listened to him. Well, you’re right. You make a good point, you make a very good point. Let’s put it this way, I’ll give you that one and I find that an excellent retort for what I just said. I’d agree with you now,” McGehee says.

But not everyone is changing their opinion. Another person I contacted from Armslist considers the president’s actions an infringement on constitutional rights and would rather talk about banning executive action. And House Speaker Paul Ryan called what the president is doing a dangerous level of overreach.

Here is the statement Gov. Walker's office issued on Jan. 6:

"President Obama is again disregarding the Constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as Chief Executive. The Obama Administration issued guidance creating uncertainty and fear of prosecution for law-abiding citizens who wish to exercise their right to sell firearms lawfully. Forthcoming federal rules could also deprive millions of Americans of their Second Amendment rights without any indication of imminent danger.

"I have asked the Attorney General to review this proposed rule language as soon as it is made available and, if issued as reported, to take any and all legal measures available to challenge this illegal act."

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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