By Jean Cole
After the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the federal government passed the Gun Control act of 1968, which generally banned interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers.
Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely, who is 62, remembers that time and how many people were “up in arms” about proposed changes in the gun law.
“A lot of people were worried that the government would try to restrict or take away their guns,” Blakely said, noting that it did not happen.
Such concern was sparked again in 2012 and 2013 following gun violence in Colorado, Arizona and Connecticut and attempts to address it through law changes.
For example, following the mass shooting of children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson and Oak Creek, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. In addition, President Barrack Obama signed 23 executive orders on Jan. 16 to address gun violence in the wake of the mass shootings.
Although Blakely is a fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, he does believe the government should look at ways of protecting children and others from mass shootings like these.
“I have had guns all of my life,” Blakely said. “I am a firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment. I have bought a rifle and shotgun for my grandson and I want him to be able to use and enjoy them the rest of his life. But, I think people on both sides need to look at and read the 23 executive orders. I don’t see anything in there that would infringe on a person’s right to own and enjoy a gun.”
He believes people on both sides of the issue — those trying to ban semiautomatic weapons and those opposed to any restrictions — need to read the executive orders.
Blakely does not feel the same about Sen. Feinstein’s proposed bill, but he isn’t worried about it because it won’t pass, he said.
“You have a better chance of seeing Barrack Obama elected governor of Alabama than you do of seeing Sen. Feinstein’s bill passing,” the sheriff said, pointing out that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would never allow it.
Jan. 16 executive orders:
• Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system;
• Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system;
• Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system;
• Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks;
• Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun;
• Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers;
• Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign;
• Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission);
• Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations;
• Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement;
• Nominate an ATF director;
• Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations;
• Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime;
• Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence;
• Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
• Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes;
• Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities;
• Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers;
• Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education;
• Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover;
• Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges;
• Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations;
• Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.