President Obama unveiled new measures on gun sales in an executive action Tuesday.
He says he wants all gun dealers to run background checks on buyers, and comply with other paperwork and restrictions that licensed gun shops already do.
You might think that licensed dealers would welcome such a directive, but Obama’s executive orders drew a range of emotions from indifference to anger at Centerfire Shooting Sports in Olathe, Kansas.
Customers browsed racks of very lethal-looking black rifles and semi-automatic handguns, but some, like Ginger Stiver, were drawn more by the colorful selection of conceal and carry handbags.
“I already picked out the purse,” says Stiver. “So, I’ll probably pick out the purse first, and gun ... I don’t know.”
Stiver, who’s middle-aged and stylishly dressed, is from Stillwell, Kansas. She says she has never shopped for a gun before.
“I never wanted one. I‘ve never been anti-gun, but I was personally anti-gun, and now I’ve changed my mind,” she says.
Stiver says she’s been worried about terrorism, but that it was Obama’s gun control directive that pushed her over the threshold to go gun shopping.
“That’s what’s got me going. Anytime a president is trying to take away our rights, that’s scary.”
For his part, President Obama says he’s not trying to take away anyone’s rights, that the moves are common sense efforts to tweak the gun control system — to make it a little harder for criminals and those with mental illness to buy guns.
One thing the president says he’ll do is require currently unlicensed gun merchants to submit the names of their buyers to the FBI for a background check. Most states don’t require people selling guns informally — online or at gun shows — to go to the trouble.
But the co-owner of Centerfire Shooting Sports, Jean Basore, says such checks are old hat for dealers already holding a Federal Firearms License, or FFL.
“With the background checks. We’re a licensed FFL dealer, so we’re already doing everything,” Basore says.
Basore adds that she’s distressed that the president is taking action without going through Congress, though to her his directives look like small potatoes.
“I don’t feel that what he’s doing is going to have any effect on terrorism, or some of these mass shootings,” she says.
Basore does worry about an unintended effect though. Some worry that casual gun owners could suddenly become illegal gun dealers, in the eyes of the government. Don Albrecht, a former FBI agent who teaches shooting at the shop says it’s unclear who would fall under the licensing restriction.
“You know, people trade guns left and right, usually to friends and neighbors, relatives, that sort of thing,” says Albrecht smiling. “Now it’s a federal crime? That is a bit scary.”
At the counter, Nick Presson stands warning a Kansas City Royals sweatshirt, eyeing a pricey 9-millimeter carbine.
“It’ll be more of the home defense, or close quarter combat situation,” Presson says of the black, assault-style weapon. “Or just go out and plink for fun, because 9mm ammo is cheap,” he adds.
Presson takes a dim view of president Obama’s gun control directives. He says he worries that they could foreshadow much more strident restrictions to come.
“It does affect us as far as government control goes, if they want to know where all the guns are, and want to come take our guns, then they have an advantage,” he says.
The president says fear of a government conspiracy to seize guns is off base, and precisely the kind of thinking that obstructs efforts to do anything to address gun violence. Administration officials say the licensing requirement Obama discussed Tuesday will be tailored to cover only people trading guns commercially, and exclude individuals, say passing down a family heirloom.
Of course, the president’s assurances don’t do much to assuage some gun owners, who feel their Second Amendment rights are under fire.
Frank Morris is a national correspondent and senior editor at KCUR 89.3. You can find him on Twitter, @FrankNewsman.