Orange gun owner, dealer react to new state recommendations
Grrr Gear shop owner Christine Noyes, left with Heather Desrosiers, who is holding a Savage bolt-action 22-caliber rifle made for children.
Grrr Gear shop owner Christine Noyes holds a Smith & Wesson 9MM pistol, with a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver shown on the counter. (Recorder/Mike Phillips)
While the most recent round of gun law proposals is less restrictive than those issued a year ago, they’re not all popular with gun owners.
Christine Noyes, owner of the Orange sports shop Grrr Gear, and Paul Hardy, president of the Millers Falls Rod and Gun Club, recently weighed in on the recommendations of the state Committee to Reduce Firearm Violence.
One recommendation would require private firearms sales to occur at licensed gun dealers, so instant background checks could be used.
Noyes said it could be big business for dealers, who charge a fee to access the background check service.
“We have a number of people that, even though they can do it online, feel more comfortable coming in and doing transfers here, because they know it’s all legal, and all the checks are made,” she said.
Though it could put money in her pocket, Noyes still doesn’t think it should be a requirement, and said sellers are notified of the buyer’s eligibility to own firearms when applying for online gun registration transfers.
“I think it’s going a little too far” to require private sales be done at dealers, Hardy said.
He said private sellers are required to see a buyer’s gun license or permit at the time of transaction, and a background check will be conducted later.
“I know for a fact that, if you sell a gun to someone, you can go online and complete a transfer form. If the authorities then decide that person shouldn’t have a gun, they can deal with it.”
The two didn’t quite agree on whether people should be required to complete live-fire training before getting a gun license.
“When people come here asking about firearms training, we encourage them to take a course that includes live fire,” said Noyes. “Should we require people to take a live-fire course that may cost more? I don’t know. I tend to lean on the side of less regulation.”
Although she thinks it’s a good idea for people to have the hands-on training, she doesn’t feel it should be required.
“Truthfully, I think (requiring live-fire training) is probably not a bad idea,” said Hardy. “There are a lot of gun owners out there with a lot of experience, but there are a lot with little or none, too.”
One proposal would give police chiefs more discretion in granting firearms identification cards, which allow people to own and use shotguns and rifles. Currently, chiefs can only deny an FID if an applicant meets certain criteria, but the proposed change would allow them to deem people “unsuitable” based on anecdotal knowledge of the applicants.
That amount of discretion doesn’t sit right with Noyes.
“I have the utmost respect for law enforcement, and they may know (some applicants) better than anyone else, but I have a problem with placing that much power over a constitutional right in one person’s hands,” said Noyes.
She said she understood the reasoning behind the proposal.
“They may have knowledge about someone’s background” that wouldn’t show up on an in-store check, said Noyes.
Hardy also isn’t sure about giving police that much discretion.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “I’d hate to see them take that right away from people, but if they shouldn’t have guns, they shouldn’t have guns.”
Hardy said he could see how the proposal may keep guns out of the wrong hands, but he also saw the potential for chiefs to abuse the power to deny FIDs with a say-so.
While Noyes and other firearms retailers would stand to profit from a proposed gun safe requirement, she’s glad it wasn’t recommended.
“We encourage people to have safes, but they’re already required to have their guns locked up,” she said. “I think a tax credit would be a good incentive for people, though.”
“It would be a good incentive for people who have the money to spend a couple thousand on a safe,” he said. “I don’t think they should be required. They’re expensive and hard to move, and we’re already required to use trigger or breech locks.”
The state committee recommended that everyone who works for a firearms dealer must undergo a background check.
Noyes pointed out some possible problems with that requirement.
“We have people that work here that don’t even touch the guns or ammunition,” said Noyes.
While it would be a small burden for the little shop, it could cost larger retailers to perform the checks. It could also disqualify people from working at big-box stores like WalMart, even though they may never go near the store’s hunting department.
While some of the proposals dealt with firearms, others dealt with identifying and helping people who may have violent tendencies, as well as keeping guns out of their hands.
Several of the recommendations centered around mental health, both reporting people’s conditions to the background check systems, and providing outreach and treatment services.
“Mental health is by far the most important, and most difficult, part of gun violence to deal with,” said Noyes.
While she thinks it’s a good idea to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable, she is concerned that requiring mental health records to be shared could violate citizens’ right to privacy and medical confidentiality.
Hardy said he would have to learn more about the mental health proposals before commenting. He did point out that firearms applications already include a section about mental health.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279