Myrtle Beach area gun shop operators react to proposed gun safety changes

troot@thesunnews.comJanuary 16, 2013 

— Gun shop owners in the Myrtle Beach area say they agree with several things Obama discussed Wednesday concerning gun violence, including stricter rules on gun shows, but didn’t think sweeping new regulations would curb gun violence in the nation.

President Barack Obama unveiled an ambitious gun control agenda, announcing a $500 million package of legislative proposals and executive actions aimed at curbing firearms violence, from mass shootings to street crime.

The announcement comes more than a month after 20 students and six staff members were killed in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The shooting sparked a national debate about gun safety, and rash of gun purchases by people apparently concerned about the future availability of guns and ammunition.

Robert Battista, the owner of 707 Gun Shop, said Adam Lanza, who was the shooter responsible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, broke 12 existing gun laws and having people trained and armed is a better solution.

“If somebody in Sandy Hook had a gun, the outcome would be different. If somebody in Aurora had a gun the outcome would have been different,” Battista said. “The Fort Hood shooter was stopped by an off-duty policeman that had his gun. I’m all for enforcing the laws that are on the books.”

David Floyd, an owner of The Gun Store, said he wants tougher enforcement on “gun diverters” or those who sell weapons without background checks at gun shows and other gatherings.

And Frank Harris, owner of Little River Pawn Shop and retired elementary school principal, called the president’s intentions good but said he’s not optimistic about sweeping changes “as long as we have a divided congress.”

Floyd said, “A lot of laws start with good intentions and end up otherwise. It’s easy to say a lot of things, but it’s a whole lot harder to implement them.

“If you have knowledge, as an individual, that the person you are selling a gun to is only buying a gun from you because he can’t go to a store and buy one, then you are violating the law too,” he said.

Increasing background checks to include individuals selling weapons makes sense, Floyd said. But banning weapons, limiting ammunition and “knee-jerk” limits does not make sense, he said.

“As dealers we have no way of knowing if someone has had mental health counseling or treatment because it is not tied to their criminal history,” Floyd said. “We’d love a way to do that, but you’re going to run into the medical profession and HIPAA laws. They’re going to say they won’t come for treatment because they fear that.”

Citing the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, Battista said the crime rate did not change.

“It’s not going to fix anything. It’s an attack on guns that look bad. They’re not more or less danger than any other gun. The amount of crime that’s committed with them is such a tiny portion. Most crimes are committed with handguns,” Battista said of the assault weapons ban. “We’ve already had this ban and it did nothing.”

The way to curb gun violence is not an easy fix with bans and limits, Floyd said.

“It’s such a complex problem, but signing a bill isn’t a simple solution,” Floyd said. “Someone who is going do something that crazy doesn’t care if a gun isn’t allowed. A sticker is on the door is not going to stop that.”

Harris echoed that, saying “We live in a violent society. We have some things we need to address. I would love to see us do something that does indeed accomplish something.”

Guns and ammunition sales in his store have soared because customers fear they might not be able to get them, said Harris, who said “I think a major step would be a universal background check for people who purchase weapons.” But he acknowledged, “It would be a very complicated thing to implement.

“I don’t think a ban on assault weapons would be useful,” he said. “I would like to see us to a better job of educating people who purchase weapons.”

As a retired educator, Harris also said he thinks the presence of security at schools is not unreasonable.

“We have security everywhere else. I think we should be guarding our most valuable asset.”

Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or follow her at Twitter.com/tonyaroot.

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