The great gun debate

Locals air opinions over Obama plan to curb violence

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POST FALLS - Some local residents are up in arms over the federal government's proposal to curb gun violence.

The sweeping package that President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday includes a ban on military-style assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets, a call for universal background checks and a boost for mental health services, teacher training and anti-bullying efforts.

Coeur d'Alene's Joey Hovaldt, who practiced shooting at Center Target Sports in Post Falls on Wednesday, said it's good that laws are being reviewed in the name of safety.

But he also believes that, unfortunately, an assault gun ban won't go far in curbing violence.

"If somebody is going to do something, they're going to do it," Hovaldt said. "It's a trigger in their mind."

He said pinpointing a ban on certain weapons is a difficult line to draw.

"A shotgun can do more damage in close quarters than an AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle)," Hovaldt said.

Hovaldt said there should be more focus on criminal acts and less plea deals in the justice system.

He said he does support the idea to boost mental health services and the push for universal background checks.

"The government needs to reflect on cuts made to mental health and social services," he said. "That's a sad ordeal."

Hovaldt said more education requirements are also necessary.

"Owning a gun can be intimidating and, if people were more educated with firearms, it may not be as scary out there," he said. "It's all about accountability and responsible ownership."

Hovaldt said he agrees with the president that laws aren't going to be a silver bullet to curbing violence, but he also believes the government should tread lightly when it comes to fixing the problem.

"I have kids, so it's a real thing to me," he said. "I believe I should be able to have the option to defend them."

Post Falls' Tracy Johnson, said the Second Amendment needs to be protected, but said the assault weapon ban is a good idea.

"I just think the fewer of those types of guns that are available, there will be less of a chance violent people will get ahold of them," she said. "I know banning a certain type of weapon won't be a cure-all, but it couldn't hurt. I don't think people need military-style weapons to protect themselves - there's plenty of other guns for that."

Spokane Valley's Colby Davis said he believes a lot of the gun control debate is a knee-jerk reaction to the Connecticut school tragedy, but favors universal background checks and more education.

"I have a responsibility to myself and my family to be proficient at using a gun," Davis said. "I have to understand the legalities and others should have to, too."

Davis said he believes it should be left up to the states, not the feds, to decide on gun control.

"The states should trump the feds because each state has its individual needs," Davis said. "Otherwise, I think gun control can be overdone."

Post Falls' Bob Flowers called the assault gun ban proposal "ridiculous."

"I believe the federal government has no right to tell individuals what to do when it comes to personal property," he said. "Somebody can do just as much damage with a baseball bat (as an assault rifle). The feds shouldn't impose their will on the states. This is America."

Flowers, like others interviewed, said he supports more background checks, but he hopes guns don't become over-regulated.

"They need to enforce the laws that are already in place instead of trying to come up with new ones," he said. "If they enforced what laws they have in place, there may be less problems. But making it harder for citizens to buy and possess firearms isn't going to help."

Idaho legislators said they have heard from a lot of residents on the gun control debate, feel the resistance to more regulations and understand people fear their Second Amendment rights may be eroded.

"Our natural instinct in response to a tragedy is to try to do something, but action that does not help the problem and restricts the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans is not the answer," Sen Jim Risch said. "I am troubled by the continuing efforts of this president to legislate by executive order when his responsibility under the Constitution is to execute laws enacted by the legislative branch.

"All proposed legislation should be put before the people's elected representatives, fully debated in Congress and then voted on under the specific procedures clearly provided by our Constitution."

Rep. Mike Simpson said he hasn't heard a lot of support for new restrictions on gun rights nor has he seen momentum building in Congress for more federal gun control measures.

Rep. Raul Labrador said examining ways to protect people without taking away freedoms can't hurt, however.

"I will review these proposals to ensure that the president's actions and proposals do not violate our constitutionally-protected right to bear arms," Labrador said. "I will also thoughtfully consider whether the laws we currently have on the books can be better enforced to safeguard our lives and our liberty."

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