Local gun experts weigh in on Obama’s proposals

Published 11:17 am Thursday, January 17, 2013

President’s proposal spurs mixed feelings

A local gun shop owner and area police chiefs share mixed opinions about President Barack Obama’s $500 million sweeping gun proposals.

The proposals call for bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, requiring people to pass universal background checks before purchasing any gun and improving school safety, including putting 1,000 officers in schools.

Obama also enacted 23 measures that did not require approval of lawmakers, such as ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.

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The proposals came one month after a gunman opened fire at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, killing 20 students and 6 adults.

Austin police Chief Brian Krueger believes some of the proposed changes aren’t going to solve the problem.

“I’m a firm believer that when someone really wants to get a gun, either from a family member, a neighbor or a friend, the opportunity to get guns is still going to be there,” he said. “It isn’t going to completely fix the problem.”

Still, he agrees with some of the proposals, such as requiring universal background checks when a person purchases any firearm. He noted how some people get around the background checks by purchasing firearms at gun shows.


He isn’t opposed to putting limits on high-capacity magazines, either.

“I’m not sure what people really need that for,” he said.

On the other hand, some people are staunchly opposed to any changes in current gun laws, especially one gun dealer from Albert Lea.

“I think this is a knee-jerk reaction,” said Hart Bros. Weaponry owner Milan Hart. “I think he’s absolutely on the wrong track.”

Hart, who is the highest volume independent gun dealer in the state, said there is evidence people still want to purchase military-style firearms as he has seen by his gun sales in the last few weeks.

He said sales of military-style firearms have “exploded,” noting that typically he has between 200 and 300 military firearms in stock but now has only two to three because people have been buying them quickly in fear they may be banned.

Hart said while he agrees with having better background checks, he thinks the focus needs to be on mental health.

Krueger won’t argue with that point, nor will Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels.

“I think we’re still missing the boat on the problem, and it needs to go more toward mental illness and instability,” Winkels said. “We did away with a lot of the support systems that are out there for people.”

He referenced a threat Tuesday evening in which a man claimed there was a bomb under his car in Albert Lea. The man was taken for a mental evaluation at the Albert Lea hospital.

The police chief said he thinks it is “ridiculous” that automatic background checks aren’t required at gun shows now, and said a check would not prohibit a law-abiding person from obtaining a firearm. He noted, however, that many criminals are getting guns through other means and are thus bypassing the background check.

He also sees no problem with limiting high-capacity magazines, noting that unless people are sports shooting, they wouldn’t have a need for them.

Regarding a proposal to put 1,000 more police officers in schools, Winkels would like to see data about whether an officer in a school would prevent attacks. He added, an officer on the property can deter illegal activity, but it would not stop people who plan shootings because the shooters would likely shoot the officer first.

He also questioned how the 1,000 schools would be selected and how funding would.

—Matt Peterson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.