Viewers share opinions about gun laws, Orlando shooting

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COLUMBIA - Amid a national controversy about mass shootings, KOMU 8 News asked viewers to share their thoughts on gun laws in Missouri and around the country. (For more of our coverage, read: In depth: Two viewers talk at length about gun control regulations and Town Square: Analyzing data to answer your questions on guns)

Background checks

Of the 954 survey respondents who answered the question, 64 percent said they believe Missouri should require background checks on all gun purchases, while 36 percent said they disagree. (Read more.)

The most common reason respondents gave for supporting background checks was to keep guns away from people who should not have them. More than 200 respondents listed this as their reason.

"I do not believe convicted felons, non-citizens, or people with a history of mental illness should be able to purchase a firearm legally," said a 31-year-old Republican man from Audrain County.

A 35-year-old woman from Callaway County who identifies as an Independent said, "For the vast majority, these checks will result in nothing. However, if a person has committed a violent crime or has suffered from extreme mental illness, those are red flags, flags that, in some cases, could indicate something deadly."

A Boone County woman, a Republican in her 20's, said: "There are people out there who should not have access to guns (felons, mentally ill, suspected terrorists) and each person should undergo an extensive criminal background check prior to owning a weapon. Guns have the power to end life - why should those who own them not be subject to intense checks?"

However, respondents who opposed requiring background checks said people who want guns will find ways of getting them, without or without background checks.

"Honest law abiding citizens will wait on a background check. Criminals wanting a firearm will steal or buy stolen weapons without any background check being performed anyway," said a 37-year-old man who is not affiliated with a political party.

A 53-year old man from Boone County said, "Criminals don't follow the laws in place now. They will obtain guns any way they can. More laws and permits WILL NOT stop these bad people from having guns."

A 61-year-old woman, also from Boone County, said there are flaws in the current system.

"Background checks don't work. The Orlando shooter proves they don't work; he was background checked for law enforcement academy, security job, gun purchases, none of which stopped the slaughter," she said.

Other opponents of broader requirements in Missouri said they believe background checks are unconstitutional.

"The Second Amendment doesn't say I have to pass a background check to exercise the human right of self defense," said a 46-year-old Libertarian man.

A 21-year-old Republican man from Cole County said, "I don't need a background check to exercise my First Amendment right. Why should I need one for my Second?"

Some supporters said background checks can save lives. Many listed security or safety as their reasons for supporting background checks.

"Safety trumps 'freedom.' Waiting on a background check is an inconvenience, not a restriction on freedom," a 50-year-old Democratic woman said.

A 49-year-old woman from Audrain County who identifies as an Independent said, "Background checks could prevent the 'person' from killing others - even if it's one prevention, it's a life saved. It's like seatbelts - everyone hated that law, but it's proven to 'save' lives."

Assault rifles

About 69 percent of the survey's respondents said they believe assault rifles should not be banned, while the remaining 31 percent believe they should be. (Read more.)

More than 75 people said assault rifles should only be used by law enforcement or members of the military.

"I do not understand why anyone, outside of active military and law enforcement, needs to own an assault rifle and high-capacity ammunition," said a Democratic woman from Boone County.

A 44-year-old Democrat from Callaway County said assault rifles were created for military use and, therefore, "should not be available to civilians."

"Hunting and home security can be done with weapons not meant to use dozens of rounds at a time," she said.

Respondents on both sides of the issue discussed how assault rifles relate to the U.S. Constitution.

"It is our constitutional right to own weapons to protect us from all enemies foreign and domestic," said a 59-year-old Republican man who doesn't think assault rifles should be banned.

a 34-year-old Libertarian man from Boone County who has the same stance on assault rifles said, "People have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. This should mean all arms not just those that the government approves."

Those responses differ from that of a Democratic man in his 70s who lives in Boone County: "The second amendment says nothing about guaranteeing the right to bear assault weapons. Why do regular citizens need to own assault weapons?"

A 44-year-old Democratic man from Cole County who also believes assault rifles should be banned said, "There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be able to shoot multiple rounds in less than a minute. 2nd amendment is being destroyed by weapons of mass destruction."

However, some respondents suggested that the damage assault rifles cause is often overestimated.

A 34-year-old Libertarian man from Boone County said, "They aren't that much different than any other weapon. In fact, someone wielding two pistols with extended magazines could probably do more damage more quickly than a person with an assault rifle."

a 21-year-old Republican woman from Randolph County said, "Assault rifles are no different than any other gun by means of features and are categorized differently to make them sound more dangerous."

Orlando night club shooting

Early in the morning on June 12, a man shot 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. KOMU 8 News asked survey respondents if they saw a connection between gun control and the Orlando shootings.

More than 200 people said they did not see a connection.

One, an Independent from Boone County in his 70s, said, "The gun dealer who sold the shooter the weapons followed all existing state and federal federal laws. So how could new laws have prevented this tragedy? They wouldn't. People intent on committing these types of acts will always be able to find the means."

a 56-year-old woman from Boone County said, "What happened in Orlando is NOT a gun issue. Guns do not kill people by themselves. It is a people issue. People will use anything available to kill someone. A hammer, a knife, a car, a bomb. And, yes, guns."

Many respondents echoed the idea that people, not weapons, kill others. However, those who did see a connection between gun control and the attacks said the tragedy could have been prevented.

"If there had been stricter gun laws, including a required mental health exam required for the shooter to purchase a gun, it wouldn't have happened," a 22-year-old Democratic woman from Morgan County said.

A 24-year-old Democratic man said, "Stronger gun control could of, at the very least, limited the number of injured and killed people, as well as possibly prevented it from ever happening."

A 33-year-old Democrat from Boone County said something has to be done.

"We're the only country where this just keeps happening, and we just keep doing nothing at all to address it," she said. "However, if I learned anything from Sandy Hook, it's that there's no human tragedy that's going to change the minds of the gun stockpilers who oppose any and all legislation. Gun laws in Missouri have gotten looser as the tragedies just keep and keep happening."

Full Interviews

We spoke at length to viewer Rose Metro, who answered our questions on behalf of Moms Demand Action. Watch the complete interview: 

In our survey, many of you said you wanted the media to do more coverage of the "positive side" of gun ownership. To address that, we spoke with Jim Hill, who is a firearms instructor at Target Masters. Watch the complete interview:

In addition to answering our questions, Hill offered us a demonstration addressing how looks of guns can be deceiving. He also showed us what constitutes an assault rifle. Watch the complete interview: