Last Friday’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has shaken the nation and spurred local debate about gun control.
A CBS News poll conducted after the shootings in Connecticut concluded that 57 percent of Americans now support stricter gun laws compared to the 39 percent that supported stricter gun laws in a poll conducted in April 2012.
The Newtown shooter used a semi-automatic rifle, the Bushmaster AR-15 — the same type of weapon used a week earlier by an Oregon shopping mall shooter. The Newtown shooter also carried high-capacity ammunition clips for the rifle capable of holding 30 bullets each.
The two shootings have put assault weapons back in the center of the national debate on gun control.
In Tooele County, some gun owners admit that gun control laws may need some adjustments, however the feeling is that the answer to violence requires something more than just a new law.
“I understand that people want to do something, but more gun laws won’t solve the problem,” said Bill Mullins, 67, Tooele. “Gun owners need to keep their guns locked in a safe. That’s the only way to keep them out of the hands of people that should not have them.”
Jerry Mallis, 66, of Erda, agreed that gun laws don’t need to be changed.
“I don’t like assault weapons, but it is people’s constitutional right to own one,” said Mallis. “Most shootings are done with guns that are obtained illegally anyway.”
Better evaluation and screenings of gun buyers might help, according to Josh VanBeek, 28, of Tooele, but how to do those screenings and who will pay for them is a problem.
“It would be great if there was a way to pay for and require a quality mental evaluation before people purchase a gun,” said Josh VanBeek, 28, of Tooele. “It would have to be something more than pay $25 and go see a counselor for a few minutes. I don’t know how to do that.”
VanBeek disagrees that making it harder for good people to have guns will discourage bad people from using guns for violence.
The Newtown shooter didn’t purchase his guns legally, they were purchased and registered to his mother.
“We already have plenty of gun control,” said Leon Hadley, of Grantsville, who teaches concealed firearm permit classes in Tooele County. “Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws and they didn’t stop the shooter.”
Hadley refers to the call for greater gun control a knee-jerk reaction.
“People feel like they have to do something,” said Hadley. “So they say we have to get guns off the street. It is not a mater of guns, they are just a tool.”
Tracy Gregrich, who works at GSI Pawnshop in Tooele, said the Newtown killings were about more than guns.
“We have to find a way to deal with mental health issues and violence in our society and that’s not as simple as passing a law,” she said.
Guns sales in stores and pawn shops are pretty well regulated and require background checks, Gregrich said, but sales between individuals are virtually unregulated.
“Regulations on gun sales however don’t apply to person to person transactions,” said Gregrich. “I think that is something that could be tightened up.”
Person-to-person gun sales often come down to meeting somebody in a parking lot and exchanging a gun for cash, according to Van Beek.
KSL.com announced Wednesday that it was temporarily suspending firearms listing from its online classified ads.
“In the wake of this and other similar incidents, important questions have been raised about the ease of access to guns. These questions deserve time for careful consideration and we are confident that an appropriate resolution will be found. Accordingly, KSL has temporarily suspended firearms listings on ksl.com classifieds,” said KSL management in a prepared statement.
Tooele City Councilman Shawn Milne finds KSL’s decision “hyper-reactive.”
“I respect their right to make the decision,” said Milne. “I find it ironic that a business that depends on the First Amendment doesn’t respect the other amendments.”
Milne’s response to KSL is that he will seek his news from other sources in the future.
Gun-free zones don’t work either, according to Mallis.
“Gun-free zones only create a place where bad people know that good people don’t have guns,” he said.
In the Connecticut shooting, Mallis thinks a teacher or administrator that had a gun and proper training could have reduced the loss of life.
Gregrich says she is 50/50 on the idea of arming school personnel.
“On one hand, I think it would be good,” said Gregrich. “But then you think about what if the gun accidentally got in the wrong hands.”
Hadley agrees that guns in the hands of teachers would make schools safer, but qualifies his position with a requirement that teachers be trained in how to use their weapon and how to keep it safe.
Bob Gowans, Tooele Education Association president, is gun owner but doesn’t bring his guns to school.
“We want schools to be as safe as possible,” said Gowans. “But I am not sure the answer is more weapons in school.”
Berkley Loomis, 29, Stockton is uncertain how additional laws could be crafted to protect people.
“Some people are very normal when they buy a gun,” Loomis said. “But you never know what will set people off. How do you deal with that?”