The Buzz

Midlands residents rip, praise Obama’s gun rules

gmelendez@thestate.com

President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated new gun-control rules drew ire and praise from Midlands residents Monday.

“He wants to take my guns,” said Kim Nettles, a 66-year-old West Columbia resident who said Obama’s plan — to issue executive orders Tuesday enacting new gun rules — is “illegal.”

But West Columbia’s John Williams, 63, said he’s “all for” closing a loophole that allows some guns to be sold at gun shows without background checks on purchasers. Allowing those gun sales is “giving away our safety,” he said.

Still, the retired Chicago police officer said he opposes any other gun-control efforts, saying they would limit access to firearms without stopping gun violence. “He (Obama) thinks taking guns away from the citizens is the way we’re going to stop the killing,” said Williams, who disagrees.

Expanding background checks likely will top Obama’s executive actions, which he will announce Tuesday.

Obama’s pledge to roll out executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence came a few weeks after the third anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Obama also will participate in a live town-hall meeting Thursday on CNN to push his proposals.

After meeting Monday with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Obama said his plan will not “solve every violent crime ... prevent every mass shooting” or “keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal.”

But, Obama added, his actions could “save lives in this country and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they've suffered as a consequence of a firearm being in the hands of the wrong people.”

Some S.C. support for Obama

Whatever Obama’s proposals, the president will have some support in South Carolina.

Forest Acres’ Brenda Young, 54, said she would welcome expanding background checks, aimed at curbing criminals’ access to guns.

“There are so many people allowed to get guns at this point, you don’t know whether they’re criminals,” she said.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, praised Obama for pursuing “common sense and reasonable gun reform,” adding the president’s executive actions would have immediate impact.

Kimpson has proposed legislation that would require all gun sellers – at gun shows, online or in private transactions – to conduct background checks. “If you don’t close that loophole then anybody can go buy a gun and then give it or sell it to another individual,” he said.

As Obama rolls out his actions, some S.C. legislators are gearing up to push their own changes. Democratic lawmakers, including Kimpson, hope to address a loophole that allowed Dylann Roof of Lexington to buy a gun. Roof faces the death penalty in connection with the June shooting deaths of nine African-Americans during a Bible study at a Charleston church. He was able to buy a gun after a three-day waiting period despite the fact that his federal background check was incomplete.

The S.C. public supports some reforms.

Eighty percent of South Carolinians say they would support requiring background checks to be completed before a would-be gun buyer can take a firearm home, according to an October Winthrop Poll.

Despite that support, gun-control proposals likely will face an uphill battle in the state’s GOP-led General Assembly.

Critics: More rules will fail, too

The president also has his critics in South Carolina.

State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said background checks do provide a way to determine whether the purchaser is law abiding and not a criminal. But the president should not rewrite laws through executive orders, Martin added, echoing a popular criticism S.C. Republicans have of Obama.

Retail firearms professionals in South Carolina also are wary of the president’s forthcoming proposals.

Mike Kent, whose Georgia-based MK Shows hosts 12 gun shows each year in South Carolina, said Obama’s executive actions will impact a minority of gun sellers and likely will not be enforceable.

Ninety-five percent of the vendors at his gun shows are licensed firearms dealers who already must conduct background checks, Kent said. Only about 5 percent – roughly 10 tables at his events – fall within the so-called gun-show loophole.

Under current law, federally licensed firearms dealers must complete background checks for gun purchases. However, some private sellers at gun shows – collectors and hobbyists, Kent said – can sell firearms without completing those checks.

Kent also said the government does not enforce the gun-control laws in effect now.

For example, he said, it is illegal for people to buy guns on behalf of others who may not be able to pass a background check. Yet “straw purchasers” often violate the law without prosecution, Kent said.

As things now stand, the federal background check system cannot keep up with requests for approvals from dealers, said Gerald Stoudemire, owner of Little Mountain Gun and Supply. “Gun sales have been ballistic because of (Obama),” said Stoudemire, adding his store, by choice, completes all background checks before selling any firearms.

New gun-control rules mostly burden law-abiding people, he added. “Criminals are not going to follow them anyway.”

McClatchy reporter Lesley Clark contributed.

Obama’s gun-control actions

What: Obama will announce a series of executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence Tuesday

When: 11:40 a.m.

Where: White House

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