Local reaction mixed on Obama gun proposals

PARKERSBURG – Local gun retailers are looking through the points President Barack Obama introduced Wednesday as part of his initiative to try to curb gun violence to see how they may impact business.

Meanwhile, some of the state’s federal lawmakers support the initiatives while others felt the president tried to circumvent the Congress to push his own agenda.

Obama announced initiatives he wanted to do through executive order and through the U.S. Congress to curb acts of violence involving firearms.

Local gun dealers contacted by The Parkersburg News and Sentinel said they had not seen the president’s announcement or gone through the individual points he laid out. They did not want to comment until they were able to review it.

Carl Balderson, owner of Carl’s Pawn Shop in Parkersburg, said he had not watched the president’s announcement and had not heard everything being proposed and could not comment on it.

Balderson did say whenever announcements have been made in the past dealing with gun control issues, many gun retailers see an immediate increase in business with an upswing in gun sales.

”Many people are afraid something will happen and they won’t be allowed to own guns anymore,” he said.

The assault weapon ban under President Bill Clinton’s administration helped increase local gun sales, Balderson said.

Although he was not seeing much of an increase in gun business Wednesday, background checks for gun sales to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms are taking a lot more time to go through, Balderson said of the impact Wednesday’s announcement may have had nationwide.

”It is a considerable wait,” he said of the background checks being sent out Wednesday.

The state’s federal lawmakers differed on how they saw the president’s announcement.

“Limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens will not change the behavior of those determined to use firearms to commit horrific crimes,” said Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. “The president chooses to ignore this while abusing executive power and avoiding the legislative process.

”We need to enforce the gun laws already in place and review existing laws, change how government and society deal with mental illness, and address violence in popular culture,” McKinley said.

West Virginians want their leaders to work together to find solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States, said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

”That’s why I am disappointed that President Obama issued an executive order today instead of showing willingness to work with Congress and state leaders to address this serious issue,” she said. “I will continue to consider ideas and proposals that address this issue in an inclusive manner, from the level of violence in the media to how we address mental illness in this country to gun laws.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he has not had a chance to review all of the president’s proposals, but he will weigh each recommendation carefully. He said he is disappointed Obama did not recommend the creation of the national commission on mass violence that Manchin proposed.

”A national commission can build the consensus we need for real action backed not only by gun control advocates, mental health experts and entertainment industry executives but also by law-abiding gun owners who fully understand the history and heritage of firearms in America,” Manchin said. ”Violence destroys the dignity, hopes and lives of millions of Americans, and we have a unique opportunity to stop this epidemic but only if we can put politics aside and have an honest and effective conversation about what to do about our culture of mass violence.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he has fought to reduce gun violence throughout his career as the reminders of Newtown, Conn., are still fresh on everyone’s minds.

Rockefeller said Obama’s plan moves the country toward increased access to mental health services as well as address the culture of violence the nation’s children are growing up with.

“I think everyone can agree that the impact of violent content on our kids’ well being is an important issue, and I’m glad this new plan will take a close look at it,” Rockefeller said. ”In West Virginia, we have a proud tradition of hunting and understand the importance of the Second Amendment. We can protect those traditions and rights as we look at ways to prevent senseless acts of violence.”