The ink was barely dry on the 23 executive orders approved by President Obama on Wednesday before discussion of the sweeping gun control plan began around the country – even in Aiken County – with supporters and opponents sticking to their proverbial guns.
The president introduced a plan to reduce gun violence in the United States that included a ban on assault weapons and a 10-round limit on magazines, as well as legislation to require criminal background checks for nearly all gun sales. Additionally, he approved 23 executive actions that included additional funding to address mental health and school security, and appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“It’s more control. It’s almost like he’s the parent and you’re not, and the government can defend your child better than you can,” said Tony Coffaro, president of the Aiken Republican Club.
Coffaro took issue with one of the executive actions that clarified that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes.
“Doctors can become deputies,” he said. “They start asking you and your children about guns – ‘Where do mommy and daddy keep the guns?’”
He thought the universal background checks were a good idea.
“That should be thorough, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Dennis Saylor, chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party, said there needs to be stricter guidelines, but gun control isn’t it.
“I don’t think restricting assault weapons is it,” he said. “I’m not against people owning assault weapons. I’m against thugs owning assault weapons – criminals. They’re never going to get them away from those guys, so banning them isn’t the answer.”
Teresa Harper, first vice chairman of the Aiken County Democratic Party, agrees with the president’s main proposals, as does her husband Eric.
“There needs to be some nationwide organization to collect information in order for background checks to have any worth,” Eric Harper said. “There should be no problems with banning assault weapons, and there’s just no reason for massive clips.”
Eric became a member of the National Rifle Association in the 1970s but now plans to withdraw his membership – frustrated, he said, about the leadership’s new message that focuses on stymieing any reasonable effort to implement safe gun measures.
“It’s a lobbying group that doesn’t represent me,” he said. “They’re fanatics, in my mind, that you can’t have a simple conversation with about the Second Amendment.”
Teresa said the measures Obama plans to impose by executive action are relatively minor, and that medical privacy should be loosened when it can give psychologists guides to reporting a potentially dangerous situation that could come from a patient.
Opponents say the president “is now attacking firearms,” she said.
“How is he doing that? He’s going to limit magazine sizes, not limiting gun owners,” she said “They will still be able to have their guns, but all (the NRA) is doing is ginning up fear to sell more guns.”
Warrenville resident and weapons expert Greg Topliff, a retired police officer from Connecticut, said Obama’s plan to curb violence isn’t a plan but more of a wish list, and that he passed the buck to Congress to make the harder decisions.
“His 23-segment plan is designed to control violence, but what I’m seeing is everything but a plan to control the issue,” he said. “It wasn’t specific enough.”
Topliff, 64, also a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, said when it comes to those who are dedicated to creating violence, you can “take the gun out of their hand, and they’ll get a bow and arrow. Take the bow and arrow, they’ll get a hatchet. Take the hatchet, and they’ll get a knife.
“There’s no way to stop a criminal from committing an act if they are going to commit an act,” he said.