Order met with skepticism, hope

Order met with skepticism, hope

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Don't expect the rash of local gun violence to suddenly diminish once mandatory background checks become the law of the land, law enforcement officials caution.

"Many of the guns used in these types of matters are stolen and/or bought in a nefarious-type transaction where often one or both parties are felons who should not possess a firearm in the first place," Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said.

Those who make a living locally in the gun industry were similarly skeptical of the plan to toughen gun restrictions outlined by the President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Of Obama's call to devote $500 million to improve mental health care, frequently cited as a reason for mass shootings, Dean Hazen said: "Wonderful."

"Too many people are confused or don't understand the rules associated with owning a gun and receiving mental health care," said Hazen, who teaches concealed-carry classes at his Urbana company, The Gun Experts.

Of the president's plans for expanded mandatory background checks, with the goal to narrow the loophole that exempts gun sales from checks if the seller isn't a federal registered dealer, Hazen and others weren't so complimentary.

Dave Costley, owner of Dave's Firearms in Urbana, predicted that the only area of the gun-selling business that will be hurt by Obama's executive order is the small percentage of people who sell and trade firearms at gun shows as a hobby, rather than for profit.

Obama's "intentions were to stop the gun show loophole, but 95 percent of the people there are licensed," Costley said. "The percentage of people he's trying to cut out are not the people related to this gang-related crime, though. Those guns are stolen. ... From what I can see, it's all smoke."

Costley said he's not too worried about the new regulations, which will only end up helping his business.

"Any time the president starts talking about banning this or that," he said, his gun sales increase by "at least 2 to 3 percent."

And when Obama was elected to office, "there was a tidal wave of gun sales," Hazen said. "It can sometimes be a fear-driven business."

Illinois, the last state to adopt concealed-carry, is renowned for having more restrictive gun laws, Hazen said. Here, all dealers must be licensed by the federal government to sell a gun, whether it's in a shop or at a gun show. They're also required to call in the buyer's FOID card and conduct a background check before completing a sale, Hazen added, a process that can take up to 72 hours.

"I have no problem with the background checks; it's already the law here anyway," said Hank Judd, owner of BFF Firearms in Danville. "At least it gives you the chance of catching someone who's trying to buy illegally or has a background with domestic violence or felonies."

While Congress could block funding for some of the president's orders, the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence calls Obama's actions a step in the right direction.

"We're thrilled to see some action on the federal level, but unfortunately we're not seeing any action in Congress. Something needs to be done," said Colleen Daley, the council's executive director. "What the president put out there is guidance in the enforcement of many of these existing laws. There's no violation of the Second Amendment; it's all common sense.

"We're not naive to think it's going to solve all gun problems, but it's a step. Complacency is not an option."

State Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) will partner with the council to host a town hall meeting on Feb. 15 in Champaign to address the importance of licensing firearm dealers.

Between 2009 and 2013, Daley said, nearly 20 percent of all guns recovered from crime scenes in Chicago were sold by just four local dealers. Illegal trafficking of guns remains a major problem in Illinois, she said.

Hazen isn't convinced targeting that group will solve anything.

"It'll inconvenience people who already follow the rules," he said. "Criminals deal with stolen guns. All this does is make it more difficult for those of us who follow the law to buy and sell our personal property. It's not going to help."

Staff writer Johnathan Hettinger contributed to this report.

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3 POINTS

Highlights of the Obama administration's series of executive steps aimed at curbing gun violence, revealed Tuesday:

Anyone who's in the business of selling guns must obtain a license, regardless of whether they sell firearms online or at gun shows, and must conduct background checks on their customers. Currently, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers.

The FBI will hire more than an additional 230 examiners and other staff to help process background checks. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2015 received more than 22.2 million background check requests, or more than 63,000 per day.

A rule issued by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will clarify that a dealer shipping a gun is responsible for notifying law enforcement once it determines it was lost or stolen in transit.

3 QUESTIONS

1. How big a campaign issue will this be among those seeking Barack Obama's job in 2016?

It definitely has "legs," says UI political science Professor BRIAN GAINES.

"Debating the merits of restricting access to guns has some appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. ... Democrats uncomfortable with defending Obama's foreign-policy record much prefer to rail against 'extreme' Republican gun views, while many Republican primary voters will bristle that nothing in the catalog of changes Obama is now backing would have prevented the San Bernadino massacre."

2. If challenged in court on constitutional grounds, will the president's executive order hold up?

More than likely, if the order is as Obama outlined it Tuesday, says UI law Professor JASON MAZZONE.

"The Second Amendment isn't likely to stand in the way: when the Supreme Court decided D.C. v. Heller in 2008, recognizing that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, the court specifically warned that its decision should not be taken to cast doubt on conditions on selling firearms and restrictions on possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and thus background check requirements."

As for a separation of powers objection, Mazzone says: "If the executive branch has a plausible argument that it is merely applying existing statutory law, it is on solid ground."

3. Why now?

That's what U.S. Rep. JOHN SHIMKUS (R-Collinsville) wondered aloud Tuesday. "If the executive actions President Obama is proposing are constitutional and will save lives, why has he waited until the final year of his presidency to act? It's simple: Because they are not legal and they will not work," Shimkus said.

JEFF D'ALESSIO

Comments

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Whatdidyoujustsay wrote on January 06, 2016 at 8:01 am

The News-Gazette is the Fox News of newspapers.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 06, 2016 at 10:01 am

I have a FOID card.  It does not specify the model, and manufacter's stamped number of my gun.  I, also, have a truck.  My registration card shows the make, model, and VIN number of my truck.  I am curious why I have to register my truck, but not my gun.

Any gun owner, except the gun-nuts, should be okay with gun registration.  If the gun is sold to another person, the registration would need to be transferred.  Those who are "collectors" would need to register each gun in their "collection".  It is a reasonable attempt to lessen gun violence.

Yes, "stolen" guns would have to be reported in order to protect the original owner.  The majority of guns used in a crime are "stolen", or "collectabels".  I can own 20 guns, and trade, or sell them.  The guns come with registration numbers when the original buyer acquires them; but they end up in others hands.

The Founding Fathers attitude toward slavery ended.  It is time now to reasonably modify the "right to bear arms".  The days of a state militia ended years ago.

787 wrote on January 06, 2016 at 11:01 am

Here's a slight difference.   The average price of a new car or truck is over $30,000.  It needs to be tracked by make, model, and VIN for multiple reasons, including state required insurance coverage.

Most average handguns are around $500.

Too bad that you don't see any difference there.... or the difference in the level of crime committed with legally purchased firearms, versus ones that aren't.

Jsmith68 wrote on January 06, 2016 at 11:01 am

Driving is a privilege. So owning your truck and driving can be more regulated. Bearing arms is a right under the constitution. The only way this will ever be settled is an amendment to the constitution which thankfully will never happen. All this rhetoric by the president is smoke and mirrors. The laws and checks are already in place. 

tellingthetruth wrote on January 06, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I would say we are back in the Wild West; however, they had gun control back then.  LOL  There will never be a resolution because money talks and our government is ran by idiots on both sides.... nor, will anyone regardless of opinions believe that there is a problem.  Vehicles may be a priviledge however, they can also be considered a weapon and used as one. What's the harm in registering guns? Regulate the ammunition. If you can't afford gas, your vehicle won't move. Same logic. I own guns, and I would have no issues registering them.  I wouldn't want to be held accountable for someone's death if someone stole one of my guns.  We put our whole lives out there for the world to see on social media yet worry about how registering a gun might invade our privacy and/or constitutional right.  It's laughable.