Gun measures trigger debate: Will they reduce violence or take away rights?On Wednesday, President Barack Obama made a call for gun control laws and outlined a plan to do so. The main points of his plan include: closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.
By: Amy Chaffins, Alexandria Echo Press
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama made a call for gun control laws and outlined a plan to do so. The main points of his plan include: closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.
After the president’s proposals were presented Wednesday, the Echo Press checked in with four people who are close to the gun control issue: Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels, gun-owner and gun-control supporter Marv Jensen of Kensington and Jed Fiskness, manager of The General Store in Osakis. Fiskness said his store is busy, but he did not respond to our request.
Each was asked to provide a brief statement regarding their reaction to the president’s plan.
DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen: “I have not had an opportunity to listen to President Obama’s gun control proposals. Gun control measures are definitely a topic of discussion locally.
“It appears that people in our area that are interested in purchasing guns may be anticipating stricter gun control measures. Our office has seen an increase in applications for permits to acquire and permits to carry. In the last month, we have received around 150 applications in comparison to around 50 applications last year in the same time period.”
ALEXANDRIA POLICE CHIEF
Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels noted: “I hope our leadership… will try hard to work with all groups and have the courage to make changes that can reduce gun violence. Specific issues that I believe which could be helpful were gathered from a recent Summit to Combat Gun Violence that I was invited to by the city of Minneapolis last week. The agreeable issues from that meeting were as follows:
• More thorough background checks of folks who want to purchase a firearm.
• Opportunities to share information with agencies and people in regards to mental illness to help prevent those issues.
• Better sharing of information between law enforcement agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco, Firemarms (ATF) and local law enforcement. ATF is banned under federal laws from sharing large amounts of pertinent information on applicants.
• Consider and react with the overall goal of all entities working with the common goal that it is a civil right to be free from violence. This means metropolitan or rural governments, organizations and associations working together to reduce fear amongst our people and provide a safe place to live, work and play.
In regard to changes we have seen:
• People are talking about and asking about this issue no matter where you go – church, coffee shop, barber, and on the streets. Some are fearful of guns and think they should all be banned. Others are fearful our government will take them all away. And pretty much everything in between.
• Our permits to purchase requests have risen about three fold since the election. I contribute this to two reasons. The primary reason is people are afraid their government will take their guns away and they want to get one before this happens. The other reason is people are more fearful of the violence in our country and want to be in a position to defend themselves.”
Marv Jensen of Kensington said he’s in favor of the president’s proposals.
“My general attitude is that I know guns have a purpose. I’m a farmer, I’ve got guns around here, but the purpose of guns is to kill. There’s no other purpose to it. There’s no reason people have to have armor piercing bullets. I’d like to see our police have better arms than the crooks.
“I don’t see any reason why someone in the private sector has to have an assault weapon,” Jensen added. “You don’t need assault rifles to hunt deer. I’d like to see a little common sense. There are rules for everything else, like driving cars, so why not for guns?”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) released this statement after the president’s proposals: “The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.
“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”