'It’s so obvious that it's wrong': Four gun owners talk about making our laws better

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This week, President Obama announced a new set of recommendations aimed at expanding background checks and better enforcing existing gun laws. On Friday, he wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling guns "our shared responsibility" and asking gun owners to "demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent."


I've spent the last couple of months talking to women who own guns—from New York to New Hampshire and Iowa—about what kinds of guns they have, how they use them in their daily lives, and what they think about our current guns laws. And while not every woman I spoke to supported things like expanding background checks or closing loopholes in existing laws to prevent domestic abusers from obtaining firearms, a lot of them did.

They had other ideas about gun safety, and not all of them made it into my other piece about women as gun owners, so I decided to pull them together here.


This is what making guns "our shared responsibility" looks like for some of the gun owners I spoke to in Iowa.

Don't let people get concealed-carry permits online

What the law says: A handful of states, including Iowa, currently accept certification done entirely online for people seeking concealed-carry permits. That means they don't have to complete any kind of in-person training with a firearm before taking it out into the public.

Penny, 41, from Des Moines, said that, just as you wouldn't send a child out with a gun before teaching her to handle it safely, states like Iowa shouldn't accept online certification from people seeking to carry guns in public:

I think concealed classes are awesome. I think that it's good that you have to go out and shoot a gun and be familiar with them. It’s questionable that you can get a carry permit online. If you’re a child and you’re going hunting, they require them to take hunting classes—in person. You’re not going to send your 9-year-old to the internet and then send them out with a gun to the woods.


Becky, 40, also from Des Moines, felt similarly:

I think that the process to get a carry permit has become a little too lax. You can go online and take a course online and get it. I think there’s merit to sitting in a classroom. It’s also not as anonymous. When I got my carry permit it was just instruction, a lecture, but it was talking about what are the implications of carrying a gun, what are the laws? It was interaction in a group. It wasn’t sitting in my office at home, taking everything online.


Examine loopholes that allow for illegal gun modifications. 

What the law says: In California, assault weapons are banned and the state defines an assault weapon as a gun that has a detachable magazine that can be removed without having to take the thing apart, usually through a button release that you an activate with your finger. Simply, the button release makes it easier to quickly reload the firearm.


Button release is, by the letter of the law, illegal in California. But gun manufacturers have found a way to skirt the ban through what critics call a "bullet button," a recessed button release that can't be manipulated by a finger but can be reached with an object like, say, the tip of a bullet. One of the rifles used in the San Bernardino shooting was a "California compliant" rifle with a bullet button, while investigators also found evidence that one of the guns had been altered in an effort to make it fully automatic, which is banned under federal law.

Brenda, 49, from Des Moines, said she was skeptical of things like expanding background checks and personally owned assault rifles, but expressed support for examining loopholes that allow for illegal modifications:

The thing with the guns that are purchased legally, what people tend to forget is that the shooters that get them can modify the guns to make them more deadly. The sad thing is, too, if you know anything about guns you can buy all the parts separately and build your own gun. So there’s another loophole that they’ve got to look at.


Close the boyfriend loophole. 

What the law says: A loophole in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act allows certain people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to own guns despite a general prohibition. As the law is today, people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence are only banned from owning guns if they are married to, have children with, or live with their victims. The crime is the same, but the consequences are different depending on the relationship.


Holly, 51, from Des Moines, thought that was absurd:

I’ve been through domestic violence. It shouldn’t have to be just a husband and wife or having kids. If you commit domestic violence and you’ve got a file, I don’t think you should have [a gun].


And Penny thought that educating gun owners about these kinds of loopholes may be one way to help close them:

It’s so obvious that it's wrong! It doesn’t change the kind of crime you committed. You committed the same act of violence.

Maybe it takes educating gun owners and getting people involved and engaged to talk to their senators to change legislation and laws. I think that some of the men involved in handguns are outstanding upright citizens who wouldn’t go for that [loophole in the Brady Act], they’d be like, “Wow, we need to change that.”


Require permits for gun owners, and keep them up-to-date.

What the law says: Federal law does not require a license, like the kind you need to drive a car, in order to purchase a gun. But 11 states require people buying guns to obtain a permit to purchase for certain kinds of firearms. Two states, Illinois and Massachusetts, have “license to own” restrictions on firearms while New York requires a license to own for handguns. The difference is that gun owners have to keep their "license to own" valid as long as they have the firearm. That means renewing them.


Becky told me she wasn't a fan of gun reform generally, but felt confident about requiring permits:

I’m a law abiding citizen, so  I like that I can go to a gun show and show them my permit and license and go home with a gun in my bag.

I think it’s up to the individual to be responsible enough to know that if they are carrying a gun they have to do it safely. The person who is getting the permit—they’ve done the background check and has been thoroughly educated as to what they’re doing. And you have to renew it, I think they should automatically be running background checks on permit holders. Like I shouldn’t be able to get a permit and then do a bunch of horrible things and still have my permit.

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