DOTHAN, AL, January 17, 2013 — People in Alabama love college football and guns, but there has not yet been much public response to President Obama’s new gun control proposals. Since 8 out of 9 of the state’s Congressional Delegation are supported by the NRA, there is not a lot of question about political loyalties.
Weather may be a factor in the quiet. At the moment, Alabama residents are mostly focused on an approaching winter storm that is expected to bring snow and chaos to the central and northern parts of the state. Alabama is not exactly noted for winter sports.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s department was deluged with calls after the President’s announcement, and Sheriff D.T. Marshall responded by supporting the proposed ban on assault-style weapons. That is not surprising coming from any law enforcement agency since, frankly, they don’t like to be shot at.
Gun shop owners have a mixed reaction to what’s going on. They are not happy that a ban on assault-style weapons will dampen their sales, but they tend to agree that the background check system could stand some improvement. One shop owner said limiting high-capacity cartridge clips for semi-automatic rifles would not be a big issue, because gun owners are very adept at changing clips without slowing their rate of fire. One has to wonder whether the Joe Biden team spent any time checking details like that.
On the national level, the greatest consensus among Americans is on background checks and mental health. According to a poll just released by the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans support tightening background checks for gun sales, including private sales and at gun shows. 80% also agree with stricter laws to prevent mental health patients from purchasing guns. Pardon the pun, but that seems like a no-brainer.
On the question of which is more important, gun control or Second Amendment rights, Pew reports that 51% of Americans favor gun control while 45% feel gun rights are more important. It’s interesting to note that those figures changed very little from a month earlier when the same poll was conducted prior to the mass shooting in Newtown, CT.
The biggest variance in opinion is on the topic of protecting schools. A full 64% of respondents favor having armed guards in schools versus just 32% who oppose the idea. However, 57% are against arming teachers while only 40% favor allowing teachers to be armed. Apparently no one has yet suggested arming the students themselves, at least not outside the city of Chicago.
Gun and ammunition sales continue to be far heavier than normal as people anticipate new controls being put in place. The FBI reports a record 2.7 million background checks were run in December 2012, bringing the total checks for the whole year to nearly 20 million. Of course, if their database is as faulty as claimed, those figures might not mean much.
Gun sales in Alabama spiked 145% after Obama was re-elected in November 2012. I recently did my own very informal survey of local sporting goods stores, and found normally well-stocked gun displays looking more than half empty. Even Walmart has fewer than normal shotguns in stock. Despite what I saw at regular gun outlets, pawn brokers are advertising that they have large inventories of guns for sale. I have to guess that some gun owners may be having cash flow issues resulting from all that stockpiling.
Gun sales in the state are going up, but crime involving guns is going down. There may be several reasons for that. First is that many people buy guns here but don’t use them here. Alabama ranks 5th on the list of states that are a source of guns for other states. That is good for us, not so good for others.
A second reason is that while federal firearm prosecutions have declined nationally to a 10-year low, they are increasing in cities like Mobile and Montgomery where local police hand over gun cases to federal authorities to prosecute. When southern police say they will use everything at their disposal to reduce crime, they are not just whistling Dixie. Yes, I know that was bad and I am ashamed, but I can personally attest that Alabama police take their work very seriously.
A third reason for the drop in gun-related crimes, so I am informed by local residents, is that much of the state is rural and most of the farm population is armed. Knowing that tends to have a significant impact on the criminal thought process when contemplating a break-in or robbery. As the author Robert Heinlein once said, “An armed society is a polite society.”
America has a problem with violence, but I know it’s going to get better because a lot of Hollywood stars took time off from making shoot ‘em up movies to appear in a TV commercial and say “something has to be done.” Other positive signs are that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel finally admitted that his city has a slight homicide problem, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is moving to ban pain killers in hospitals. If you don’t understand that, don’t worry, he doesn’t either.
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