As newly inaugurated President Barack Obama begins his second term in office, one of the items at the top of his agenda includes an effort to pass the most stringent gun-control legislation in decades.
Some of the measures include reinstating a ban on assault rifles, background checks on all gun purchases, restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, eliminating armor-piercing bullets and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, among a litany of other policies.
However, local gun dealers said laws are already in place to prevent the sale of firearms to felons.
“Just enforce the laws you have,” said Jeff Bakker, owner of 2K Pawn and Gun Shop in Decatur.
Bakker’s store uses the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
“Anyone who wants to purchase a firearm must get a background check,” Bakker said. “It usually only takes five to 10 minutes unless they have a real common name.”
Businesses federally licensed to sell firearms must use NICS to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to purchase firearms or explosives. The FBI system ensures the customer does not have a criminal record or other factor that would make them ineligible to purchase the weapon. NICS was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.
However, there is a loophole that allows some vendors at gun shows to sell weapons without conducting background checks.
In 1994, a ban on assault weapons sales went into effect. It expired in 2004. President Obama has called for a renewal of the ban on assault rifles ever since Adam Lanza, 20, used a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle to shoot his victims, most of them 6- and 7-year-olds, at an elementary school last month in Newtown, Conn. He killed 26, including 20 children, before he killed himself.
Brian Bernardo owns and operates Bridgeport Guns and Ammo. He’s also a police officer in Runaway Bay and volunteer firefighter. He does not believe a ban would have much impact on gun crime.
“Assault weapons are used in less than 1 percent of gun crime,” Bernardo said. “Why go after something only affecting 1 percent of all gun crime?”
He said his store caters to hunters and sporting shooters rather than those seeking tactical weapons, such as assault rifles or high-capacity clips, but he still doesn’t feel the government should take that right away from law-abiding citizens.
“If someone is willing to kill somebody, you think that they are scared about getting 30 days in jail for possessing a 30-round magazine?” Bernardo asked.
Since the assault on the elementary school and the possibility of a weapons ban going into effect, both businesses have seen the sale of guns and ammunition skyrocket. They can’t keep ammunition on the shelves.
“We might get a case of 9 millimeter bullets today, and they’ll be gone by tomorrow,” Bakker said. “We can’t keep ammo in for more than a day. It’s like that at other stores too: WalMart, Academy, everywhere is running out.”
“People in the Metroplex are finding out about me,” Bernardo said. “Some of the big box stores are funneling some customers out to me. If my store was in the Metroplex, the shelves would be empty.”
Bernardo has seen this scenario before.
“We got these same spikes when Clinton was elected and when Obama was elected the first time. It’s good for business in the short term, but I’d rather have steady, long-term stability. People can’t keep buying at this frenzied pace.
“Right now this is like a jewelry store,” Bernardo added. “But instead of dealing in gold and silver – copper, brass and lead is the new currency.”