Easy access puts Arkansas gun control under question
LITTLE ROCK —
Every day more than 30 people are shot and killed here in the United States, but access to guns continues to be fairly easy for most people.
We're just three months removed from the largest mass shooting in our country's history at a Colorado movie theatre, so should laws be stricter on the selling of used weapons, and how do police approach a controversial topic like this?
Whether for protection. or recreation, Arkansas is one state where many aren't afraid to arm themselves.
"Honestly guns are about as common as people having iPhones or an iPad," said Lt. Carl Minden with Pulaski County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities admit maybe guns are becoming like household items because it doesn't take much effort to get your finger on the trigger.
"If someone wants to get a gun, they'll get a gun," Minden continued.
Matt Millard in Little Rock shows us his most recent prized purchase: a Mac-10 machine pistol. As a kid friends gave him the nickname "Matt-10" due to his obsession.
"Growing up I got my hands on a lot of different weapons you know what I mean," Millard said.
Arkansas state law requires dealers at gun stores and gun shows to make their buyers go through a background check, but if someone sold you one personally they're in the clear.
Millard admitted to us he uses online sites like Armslist and Craigslist, to help him find the guns he's looking for ,or even sell and trade with others. Millard's purchases are just a few of the more than two-million second-hand guns sold each year.
While Millard maintains he's no felon and just doing this for a hobby it's even worrisome to him at just how easy it is to get a deadly weapon.
"I'm telling them how I buy my weapons and how I go through my guns and stuff. They're like 'Oh wow, you can do that?' and I'm like 'Yeah you know it's legal in the state of Arkansas."
"This summer I was in Aurora, Colorado. Decided to go out to the movie and really my life hasn't been in the same ever since," said shooting victim Stephen Barton.
Barton went to see a highly-anticipated action movie, but it turned into an American tragedy.
"I was shot in the face, neck, chest, arm and hands by a shotgun by the shooter in that theatre," Barton said.
He's now speaking out wanting you to demand a plan for gun control.
Laws in Colo. mirror those in the Natural State, so it leaves our thoughts open to wondering if we could be subject to a similar horrific event.
"Approximately 40-percent of guns are sold privately, which under federal law means they don't require a background check," Barton continued.
"So that's just a colossal number of lethal weapons that are potential falling into the wrong hands."
According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, more than 200,000 background checks were conducted in Arkansas in 2011. Out of those just a little more than 2,000 mental evaluations turn up; a ratio ranking in the bottom tier of America.
"Well I mean that's something that is on the form, you have to mark it. Now as far as enforcing that, is there a database of people that have a mental history, to my knowledge there's not. You actually go on people's honesty," added Lt. Minden.
"What we really need to look at is how we can best prevent guns from getting in the hands of dangerous people through a background check system that not only is universal, but incorporates the mental health records that are missing," Barton said.
"Especially from a place like Arkansas where 20,000 mental health records are still yet to be submitted."
Bearing arms is the legal way people justify their 2nd Amendment right to protect themselves. Gun control doesn't speak to taking them away from everyone, it's just a way to effectively manage the purchase, and you may be surprised at the opinion of authorities.
"Most law enforcement officers are not opposed to people having concealed carry permits," Minden said. "It's something that gives you a measure of self defense. If there's bad guys that have guns then you have the opportunity as well to defend yourself."
Barton's first-hand encounter with death doesn't give him the same view.
"It's comforting to think that a gun in the right hands could just save the day one day when these shootings happen, but we should really be looking at the regulations that are, or aren't in place," he added.
According to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition there are only six Arkansas mayors that have joined their campaign:
- Larry S. Bryant (Forrest City)
- Arnell Williams (Helena)
- Lawrence Owens (Hughes)
- Patrick Hays (North Little Rock)
- Carl Redus (Pine Bluff)
- McKinzie Riley (Wrightsville)