KUNM

Obama's Gun Actions Greeted With Hope, Skepticism

Jan 7, 2016

An Albuquerque gun shop was bustling with people eager to sell and buy guns this Tuesday afternoon. President Obama had just explained his new gun initiatives to the nation that morning. 

They include tightening requirements for gun show and internet gun dealers to be licensed, hiking funding and staffing of the nation’s background check system, pushing for smart-guns with things like fingerprint password locks and calling for a $500 million dollar increase in mental healthcare funding

At Ron Peterson Firearms on Central Avenue just east of Nob Hill, shoppers were divided about how effective the new rules will be at preventing gun violence. Midday costumers were inspecting a variety of modern and antique guns and accessories.

Allie and Will Wilbur perused firearms displayed under the store’s long, glass counters. I asked the Wilburs whether they thought putting more money into mental health would help keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. Will Wilbur said it might.

“The possibility of it preventing more gun violence is greater, if you’re including mental stability,” said Wilbur.  

But Allie Wilbur said more funds to treat mental illness won’t stop some people from getting assault weapons if they want them.

 “I believe if a person is going to do something,” said Allie Wilbur, “they are going to get the means of something destructive.”  

The Obama administration noted in a fact sheet that recent shootings point to a crisis in our mental health system, but people who have mental illnesses are more likely to become victims of gun violence. 

On the other side of the store, I spoke with Gavin Greath who was on his lunch break. “I’m a registered Libertarian,” he said, “so I believe there should less restrictions for what people do. It should just be looked at more carefully.”

Rules that keep people with mental illnesses from getting guns should only impact those folks, he said.

The President’s initiatives are also intended to shore up the nation’s background check system, including the distribution of data on people who are deemed mentally incompetent. 

“These background checks I think are important,” said CB Montoya over by the antique rifles. “There’s some of these gun shows and whatnot, they don’t have a background checks on people and people just go buy whatever they want. People that shouldn’t have guns.”

But Montoya says he’s a staunch supporter of 2nd Amendment rights. “People need their guns and if people want to have their guns they should have them, that’s the way I feel about it,” he said.

The $4 million to beef up the background check system and the $500 million in mental healthcare funding would have to be approved by Congress.