Courier Staff Writer
Among the items for sale at the Gun and Knife Show at Bridge View Center in Ottumwa were ear plugs, which every responsible target shooter knows are important for hearing protection.
But when it comes to discussing the balance between public safety and maintaining our rights as citizens, several firearms enthusiasts said both sides need to pull the cotton out of their ears.
“I don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican, independent or Martian, you do not always have the best idea,” said David Tubbs of Centerville
When there’s a tragedy, politicians may feel the need to jump up and say, “I’ll protect you! But we must do it my way.”
“They get tunnel vision,” said Tubbs, a vendor at the show from A.C. sales out of Centerville “They [each have decided] on one direction only.”
That’s when extreme ideas, like banning guns — or making everyone obligated to carry a gun — start popping up.
To a law-abiding Iowa citizen who believes in the Second Amendment, Tubbs said, elected officials and future politicians seem to be more worried about how they look before an election than how they can develop an answer that works for America.
Just don’t try to strip Americans of their rights, like the right to bear arms, said Preston Hawkins, a Missouri native currently attending college in Ottumwa, especially under the pretense of protecting the public.
Because the Second Amendment exists, in part, to protect the public from having their rights stripped away.
Tubbs said no matter who has a solution that allows citizens to maintain their rights while protecting the public from danger, our politicians need to listen.
“Right now, Congress couldn’t agree on lunch,” called out another vendor who agreed with Tubbs.
It’s a shame that if a politician Tubbs respects has a really good idea, he said, the opposite party doesn’t want to listen — because it came from the wrong side of the aisle.
It’s not just one party being stubborn, either, he added.
“If one side has an idea, the other side says it must be bad. We’re never going to get anything solved that way.”
So what about some of the ideas that seem to have a few supporters, at least, on both sides of the issue: Would background checks be too intrusive?
“Not if you don’t have anything to hide,” said Chris Sharp, a vendor at the show sitting with some family members.
She said she, like most of the people who were at Bridge View Center Saturday, are supporters of responsible, lawful gun ownership.
“There’s nothing wrong with guns,” said Sharp.
Nor, she continued, is there anything wrong with a stable, law-abiding citizen who owns a gun. She has a family with nephews and grandchildren in their 20s who own firearms safely and responsibly. And they are the types of kids who would notice a fire at a neighbor’s place and rush over to help put it out. These are good kids, she said. But there are other kinds of people, too.
“A gun isn’t good or bad on [its own], it’s the person pulling the trigger,” she said.
There are people in this country who shouldn’t go armed. Which is why responsible gun owners know they need to maintain control of their firearms, Sharp said. In her household, firearms are locked safely away. Children are not allowed to handle weapons until they’re old enough to learn to do so responsibly.
“Our kids never even saw those guns,” she said.
She said she was saddened by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and meant no disrespect, but that young man in Connecticut had his own issues that should have been taken into consideration. Why did he even have access to guns?
She and another vendor said the mental health system in this country is a mess and those who presently have mental health issues that make them a danger to themselves or others should not be given access to firearms. And those with felonious tendencies also need to be barred from gun ownership or access to firearms.
“If they wanted to check my background, I’d tell them to go right ahead; I’ve got nothing to hide. If you do have something to hide, maybe you shouldn’t [be carrying] a gun,” she said.
Even if background checks on criminality or mental stability aren’t the perfect answer, at least we can hear each other out, said Tubbs. Elected officials are not setting a good example of that right now.
At one booth was, perhaps, a type of friendly reminder: Despite the serious national debates about guns, outdoorsmanship and shooting sports can be fun.
The Zombie Tactical Store is owned by Robin Slaughter, who has been visiting shows surrounding her native northeast Missouri for two years. Her T-shirts and other items have various gun-related slogans ranging from symbolic to funny.
Though Slaughter and a cousin working the booth had positive, friendly attitudes — her cousin says you can’t spell Slaughter without laughter — she becomes serious when talking about people’s rights.
“I’d like to see them do something that works, something that incorporates checks and balances.”
She has been seeing the people who are least educated about firearms rushing to throw together some hastily thought-up new laws.
“I wish they’d do some research, not try to just come up with a quick answer in a couple of months,” Slaughter said.
The mainstream media isn’t helping educate the public, she said. They’re scaring people unnecessarily and attracting an audience by showing the most dangerous-looking firearms.
“Do you see which guns they show in the media?”
It’s more specific than just semi-automatic weapons. It’s the ones that actually look like assault rifles or other military ordinance.
She said no one seems to be complaining about the traditional, burnished walnut weapons that, compared to assault rifles, shoot the same caliber round, fire just as quickly and have multi-round magazines.
Both types of rifles were being sold at the Ottumwa show.
Of course, she said, the media knows the “regular” looking guns don’t draw higher ratings, she said.
“It’s cosmetic — and about selling advertising.”