Residents react to federal proposal to strengthen gun laws

 Kelly Tompkins, Security Guard for Paragon System Inc. and Dr. Larry D. Simmons Sr. an Outreach Specialist and Army Veteran from Gadsden County.
 Photos Submitted by Julious Lowe

A new bill introduced in Congress last week would expand background checks for the sale and transfer of nearly all firearms. This move comes on the eighth anniversary of the mass shooting in Arizona that nearly killed former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), and several other gun control advocates, introduced the bill.

“Today we take a decisive step to help save lives right away,” said Thompson, the bill’s chief sponsor, adding, “From public polling to the ballot box, the American people have spoken up and demanded action.”

The measure would require background checks for nearly all firearms purchased, including at gun shows and from over the internet. With limited exceptions being made for law enforcement officers and guns transferred between close family members.

Andrew Brown, a veteran and Tallahassee native, said if the bill should make it through a Republican Senate that is not likely to look favorably on any kind of gun control, the bill still doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

“Any steps to limit access to guns is good, but the major problem is the fact that people who can legally purchase guns are some of the ones utilizing them for criminal activity, and people who already have a criminal record don’t go through the proper channels to get guns because of the black market where it is easy to obtain guns for criminal activity,” he said.

Larry D. Simmons Sr., an Outreach Specialist with Gadsden County, is a gun owner who welcomes tougher background checks.

“As an avid gun owner, former member of the armed forces, and currently a president of a local gun club, I share the concerns of 90 percent of the American people that we must keep firearms out of the hands of people whose desire it is to harm others. It's the right time when Democrats have the wind at their back with the recent control of the House and the support of the American people,” he said.

Meanwhile, a group of Democratic senators, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), plan to introduce a companion bill called the Background Check Expansion Act that expands federal background checks to all gun sales, a requirement that would apply to unlicensed sellers whenever they do business at gun shows, online and out of their home.

Democrats aren’t expecting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to bring the measure to the floor, or get an endorsement from President Donald Trump on Twitter anytime soon.

But with the help of outside advocacy groups, they hope to put the pressure on the Republicans to act on a policy that has broad public support, after a midterm election cycle where dozens of freshman House Democrats, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), and Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Georgia), ran for office and were elected after pledging to act to address gun violence. McBath is a gun control activist whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed at a gas station seven years ago.

McBath said last week at the Capitol that she was bringing forward the bill to “prevent more families from facing the horror and heartbreak of gun violence.”

Kelly Thompkins, a local security officer for Paragon System Inc., believes something must be done.

“I think gun control laws are long overdue for a change. Will it prevent all gun violence? No. But studies consistently show the mind is not fully developed until age 25, why someone can purchase a gun at 21 and 18 for a long gun. Yes, this comes from a gun owner and someone who love guns. But our youth our youth is being destroyed by guns,”  Thompkins said.