As President Obama signs executive orders to put limitations on firearms, Missouri lawmakers are pushing legislation to back the Second Amendment. The gun debate continues to rage on the political front, and citizens are arming themselves in record numbers.
Darrel House, co-owner of D&D’s Guns in Gower, Mo., said it’s difficult to find guns. He acquires their weapons through distributors who are having a tough time keeping guns in stock. He has to get up early in the morning and look online to get what he needs for his customers.
“As soon as I see something I want, I grab it or it’s gone,” he said.
He’s not a big proponent of the assault/tactical weapons, but believes that while they can be dangerous in the wrong hands, it’s the person behind the gun that makes them that way.
“There is a lot of fear among gun owners and prospective gun owners about what the government is going to do,” he said of what’s driving gun sales, including tactical/assault rifles, which he gets calls for on a near-daily basis. It took him eight months to sell the only one he had in stock, but that was seven months ago. Now they’re hard to find.
“The Second Amendment, some people think, is in jeopardy,” he added.
Mike Gerhart, owner of GNR Gunsmithing, also located in Gower, said ammunition is going out the door fast.
“I’ve seen a dramatic increase (in sales) with the anticipated legislative action,” he said.
Doug Menteer, a Turney, Mo., resident, was once a frequent contributor to area newspaper opinion pages. His letters to the editors touched on several issues, but it’s been a few years since the retired trucker submitted anything. The gun debate got him fired up a couple of weeks ago, and his letters are once again going out to regional papers.
“In America, we’ve loved guns forever,” he said in an interview with the News-Press. “We’ve hunted with them, brought them home from various wars, hung them on the walls. You used to be able to put them in a wooden gun cabinet and they were safe.”
Mr. Menteer, a member of the National Rifle Association, organized a rally Saturday in downtown Kansas City where citizens came to support their Second Amendment rights. He organized the event because he’s worried that executive orders are overstepping their bounds and that “step by step,” Americans’ guns will be taken away.
“The Second Amendment is there so we can protect ourselves from a government that is not friendly to the people,” he said. “That’s why there aren’t supposed to be any laws (opposing the Second Amendment).”
Buying a rifle, shotgun or handgun from a gun shop requires a background check. Anyone with a criminal record or a record of mental illness will get red flagged. But not all guns are acquired legally.
According to Dwight Scroggins, Buchanan County prosecutor, approximately half of the crimes in the county that are committed with guns are perpetrated by those who own them illegally.
Mr. Scroggins said a total of 27 cases related to firearms were filed in 2012, five of which were for armed criminal action, three for unlawful possession, one unlawful sale, 11 unlawful use, four unlawful possession while intoxicated and three unlawful possession of unloaded firearm by an intoxicated person.
More background checks
Exactly how many guns are in circulation in St. Joseph and surrounding area is unknown, but background checks at gun shops are booming in Missouri and surrounding states. Background checks have increased by nearly 40 percent since 2008.
According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the number of checks in Missouri increased beyond the national average: Missouri had 513,303 background checks in 2012, a 23 percent increase over 2011. Kansas had 210,972 in 2012, a 22 percent increase. The national average is about a 16 percent increase over the same time frame.
Fewer than one percent of those who try to buy a gun are denied. Of the 100 million checks over the last decade, about 700,000 failed to meet the criteria to purchase a gun, according to the FBI.
More than 60 percent of denials are to illegal/unlawful aliens. Just over 20 percent of denials are due to adjudicated mental health issues, and around nine percent of denials are to citizens convicted of a felony punishable by more than a year or a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years. Around four percent of denials are to fugitives from justice.
Nationwide, there has been a steady increase in background checks since 2005, when 8.9 million were made. From 2008 to 2009, the checks jumped from 12.7 million to 14 million. The biggest jump was from 2011 to 2012, when totals went from 16.4 million to 19.5 million.
The number of people applying to conceal/carry continues to grow since Missouri legislators approved the practice in 2003. A computer glitch at the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department has led to an effort to recover the number of conceal/carry permits issued since the inception of the law.
The only numbers currently available show that 1,049 Buchanan County residents were approved for conceal/carry permits from June 2009 to April 2012, which is less than 2 percent of the county’s population of people 21 and older. A News-Press report from last June said that since 2003, a total of 2,035 residents have been registered to conceal/carry their handguns.
The permits, which are approved to citizens who have completed an eight-hour training class and pass a background check, are valid for three years. Residents must reapply within six months of their permit lapsing.
Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Ted Markt said the applications for conceal/carry have been busier than ever and that he hasn’t “seen any indication that it’s slacking off.”