Putting the safety on


President Obama signs his 2016 executive order gun laws into effect.

July 20, 2012: Twelve casualties and 58 injuries from gun wounds during the Dark Knight Rises premiere at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.

December 14, 2012: Rogue gunman kills 20 first graders and six adults before killing himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

June 18, 2015: Alleged white supremacist shoots nine black church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

October 2, 2015: Disturbed college student at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon kills eight of his classmates and his teacher, injures nine others and then kills himself with a few of his 14 legally acquired guns.

President Barack Obama, in the final year of his presidency, has decided to take action.

According to an official White House press release, the Obama administration issued executive orders on January 4, 2016 to close loopholes in gun registration by increasing background checks, tracking illegal firearms, increasing mental health care access and improving gun safety research.

The President plans to give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) enough money to hire 200 new agents and investigators to enforce existing gun laws, and donate $500 million to increasing access to mental health care for all citizens.

The ATF is requiring those who are in the business of selling firearms to get a license and conduct background checks, regardless of where they sell their guns. Background examiners must be notified of any pre-existing mental conditions where possession of firearms will harm either the owner or others. Background checks will be processed 24 hours, seven days a week, creating over 230 jobs for examiners and staff personnel.

“Things like background checks and mental examinations are important,” Jesse Kellett (12), a licensed gun owner said. “I think [background checks] are things that should take place, but don’t always…I think it’s unrealistic to think that they can. But I think putting financial aid to [background checks] and making that stronger and reinforcing that is better than in some places where they have attempted to take guns from people.”

Hunter Dunlap (12), another licensed gun owner, agrees background checks should be considered, but is concerned they will affect the wrong people.

“When you have extensive background checks, and strict gun registration laws and strict gun laws, the only thing that it’s going to affect are law-abiding citizens,” Dunlap said. “Because law-abiding citizens, they are going to follow the law. They will do what it takes to stay within the law, but [criminals] who get the guns, that won’t stop them. They’re still getting the guns. So the only thing, in my personal opinion, that stricter gun laws would do would just limit the law abiding citizens’ firearms privileges.”

Dunlap and Kellett are both trained in Hunter’s Education, an extensive gun safety course covering how to properly use, clean, fix, load and shoot guns. They hunt and shoot recreationally, but the primary reason they own guns is self-defense.

“The number one reason these mass shootings happen is because they are on gun-free zones. No one goes into a gun range and tries to shoot people there. Why? Because people there are properly able to defend themselves,” Dunlap said.

Others are skeptical of guns’ role in our modern society. Miguel Vivar-Alcalde (12) believes there should be more “common sense gun laws” taking place.

“I just don’t personally believe that, especially with everything that’s been going on lately, [the second amendment] contributes to a more safe society,” Vivar-Alcalde said. “Let’s just say that your house is getting robbed and you get threatened at gunpoint. You’re not going to be able to get your gun. It’s not going to be at hand’s reach. Unless you are carrying it with you at all times, even [so], you’re not going to be able to pull it out and shoot someone. It’s not really something that happens in the moment.”

Despite their differences, all three agreed increasing general gun safety through instructional programs, President Obama’s fourth point in his executive orders, would benefit society as a whole. White Station offers an alternative gun safety teaching method through JROTC.  

White Station’s JROTC marksmanship team trains cadets who scored perfect scores on the gun safety exam in the proper way to fire and maintain air rifles in a competitive environment. Each team member is assigned to a gun with a serial number and is responsible for the maintenance and the repair of the firearm.

“We’re really strict about safety,” Erin Criswell (11), captain of the marksmanship team, said. “That’s a big thing for us, especially this year. Every time we finish a practice, I go back and I check the safeties on the firearms and I check if everybody has their CBI in.”

[A CBI is a piece of plastic wire material inserted through the barrel so the shooter knows there are lead pellets and not bullets in the firearm.]

With President Obama’s term ending later this year, the new president will have the power to overturn all of Obama’s executive orders. There is a possibility these laws may not be around for much longer.