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On a Small Town Missouri Square, Coffee Club Regulars Discuss Gun Control Legislation

US Senate rejects more widespread background checks; Missouri House approves expansion of gun rights
(Photo credit: Diobmit, via flickr)

It’s been week full of heavy news, and that's provided for plenty of conversation at local coffeeshops and dinner tables, in moms' groups, and elsewhere. One development sparking national converstaion this week was that US Senators rejected tighter gun controls. The Manchin-Toomey measure would have made background checks at gun shows and in internet sales mandatory, but it failed to pass. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson stopped by a coffeeshop Friday morning on the downtown West Plains square and has this reaction to that vote.

[Sound: coffee pouring into cup, coffee group laughing]

As steaming hot, pecan-flavored coffee pours into a Styrofoam cup, a group of regulars settles in to chat in a window seat at the Downtown Antique Mall overlooking the square. They’re all retired, and they call themselves a “diverse bunch.” I’m here to ask them what they thought of the US Senate’s vote to reject legislation that would have strengthened background checks.

One man, who just wanted me to use his first name, Floyd, spoke up first.

Floyd:When a six year old, he gets killed, and nobody says anything about it, or fights the laws that would help that, it’s a crying shame.

Davidson: So how did you feel about the US Senate not passing these stricter background checks?

Floyd:I think it was all through the NRA. That’s what I think.

Davidson: Were you pleased with it, or disappointed?

Floyd: I was extremely disappointed.

Davidson:And why is that? Would you like stricter background checks?

Floyd:Yes, on [the mentally ill]. And all kinds of other stuff, but mostly [the mentally ill].

And by "mental," he’s referring to the mentally ill. Also here for coffee and company is Bob France. He worked for years as a deputy sherriff, and now works as a handyman.

France: I just feel we’ve got enough controls the way they are—with our government the way it and all. So I just like it the way it is.

Davidson: Do you think there should be universal background checks?

France: I don’t think so. I think the background checks are good the way they are. I think the government is using the Newtown, [Connecticut] incident. They're using [them] as a pawn, to me. They should be left out.

Davidson: You said that you were at a yard sale this morning, and saw someone just walk up and buy a rifle. Do you worry at all that the person buying that might have a criminal background?

France: Well, the criminal is always gonna get a gun, no matter what. So all the background checks in the world are not going to help that situation there.

Also, there were major developments in the gun control debate on the state level this week: the Missouri House passed the so-called “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” which would lower the conceal-carry age from 21 to 19 and would allow schools to have armed protection officers. That bill would also make it a misdemeanor to try to enforce federal gun laws that are seen as conflicting with a Missourian’s right to keep or bear arms.

That legislation now heads to the Missouri Senate.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.