Guns and gun owners have been back in the headlines following President Barack Obama's recent executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence. And locally, Greene County issued or renewed more than 500 concealed carry weapons licenses in the third quarter of 2015, while Montgomery County issued more than 1000.
In order to get a concealed carry permit in Ohio, an individual is required to take a gun safety training class, and the National Rifle Association is responsible for much of that training. WYSO visited an NRA concealed carry class at a private home in Xenia and found a mixture of views among locals about President Obama’s latest move.
In Jesse Mackey’s living room, there’s a glass case with an extensive display of Precious Moments, those porcelain dolls with the big eyes. He’d like to replace that—to expand his store. Mackey is a licensed firearms dealer, and he shows off a small display of supplies in his front hall, next to piles of kids coats and boots and his wife’s Precious Moments figurines.
Behind us, 13 people are crowded around Mackey’s long dining room table, bundled for the snowy weather. They’re filling out a written test on gun safety. Later they’ll go to a shooting range at his cousin’s house—but for now Mackey takes a seat in a rocking chair at the head of the table to review their tests.
After the test, he orders pizza for the group. While we wait, Mackey says he’s been teaching these courses for ten years and lately, they’re always packed.
“It got really crazy after the Paris attacks and after all the terrorist attacks out in California,” he says. The busy-ness started after Obama first got elected in 2008. “It’s great for me,” he says, laughing and shaking his head.
Mackey’s a life member of the NRA, which opposes almost any expansion of gun control, but he actually doesn’t have a problem with the president’s recent executive actions on guns.
“I understand that he’s trying to make everything safer for everybody,” Mackey says. He just feels like regulation doesn’t accomplish much—if someone wants to get a gun illegally, they still will.
The president’s latest action does potentially make it harder to sell a gun privately or at a show without getting a license and requires background checks for more purchasers. But Jesse Mackey’s mild view of the whole thing isn’t that unusual for gun owners: A 2013 Pew Poll found 8 in 10 gun owners supported these kinds of rules.
Another NRA life member, Erik Blaine, says not everyone is so relaxed. Blaine is a lawyer out of Vandalia specializing in gun law, and says lots of his clients are concerned about the new rules.
“We’ve experienced a lot of questions,” he says. He thinks it won’t be clear whether a private owner can sell a gun without registering as a dealer. “The executive actions have muddied the waters as far as legal interpretation of what is or is not a firearms dealer.”
Despite the NRA's loud and persistent voice, its members still make up a small minority of gun owners, estimated at between five and ten percent.
Back in Jesse Mackey’s certified NRA concealed carry class, everything is very above-the-table anyhow. He’s a federally licensed dealer in regular contact with state and county authorities. Still, people don’t have to be be NRA members to join the class and no one here wants to discuss their political views—except a Fairborn resident named William Richardson, who’s not an NRA member himself.
Talking in a hushed tone next to Jesse’s household gun supply display, he says the executive action is just fine with him.
“We should be as proactive as we possibly can within the restraints of the second amendment,” he says. “So, I’m okay with it.”
Even though, it could conceivably put more restrictions on him—and his gun collection hobby. What does he have a problem with? The idea that the NRA speaks for all gun owners. “They might have too much power, I don’t know. They might.” He does agree with them on opposing assault weapons bans, arguing simply that they don’t work.
The NRA’s national political arm has criticized the president’s announcement. Despite all the talk, President Obama’s latest action is just ramping up enforcement of laws that already exist—even NRA leadership has indicated they don’t think these actions will change much.
A version of this story aired nationally on NPR’s All Things Considered earlier this week.