August has been a deadly month for gun violence in the United States. A shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and another the next day in a popular bar district in Dayton, Ohio left dozens dead. The shootings have once again raised the level of debate surrounding gun violence and what kind of solutions are available to lawmakers.
The Washington Times Herald went and asked the readers how they feel about the recent gun violence.
The attitude that it won’t happen here is one that has faded away with the repeated reports over the years.
“I think it’s possible anywhere,” said Marilyn Dyer of Washington. “I think about it when I’m in huge crowds.”
“I think it could happen anywhere,” said Jeff Culver of Evansville. “With the state of affairs, the heightened hatred and rhetoric flung around on both sides, I think people could be compelled to think they are doing good, especially if someone says somebody is treasonous or a Nazi or any of the other things thrown out there.”
There are a number of calls for changes to laws regarding guns. Among those are ones for the expansion of background checks. Others are calling for a national red flag law. Some want to limit the kind of weapons people can obtain.
At least one woman did not care for more background checks. “The ones doing the mass shootings, they don’t get their guns legal,” said Dawn Hopkins of Washington. “That’s just silly. Here, let me buy an AK from you. I’m going to shoot up a school. No, they get it somewhere else because somebody else in the household had it or a friend had it. You can have all the background checks you want, but it won’t help you with that.”
The specter of mental health and people getting access guns is something that does concern people in Daviess County. “I’m aware of crazy people,” said Parker Holstein of Cornettsville. “They should check them closer.”
“In respect to mental illness, yes,” said Dyer. “I think too many guns are getting into the hands of the mentally ill.”
Some believe there are probably enough laws on the books. “They say that if you just follow the rules already on the books it is a good background check already,” said Bob Arnold of Washington. “But if they can make it a little safer without going too far one way, to me it should be a balance to protect the right of people to own guns and trying to keep people from the guns. It’s got to be thought out. It cannot be political.”
Red Flag laws like those in Indiana where police can confiscate guns from a person if they believe that person poses a threat to himself or others have received a lot of discussion, but at least one person did not like that idea.
“The Red Flag law, I don’t agree with that only because anybody can call out anybody else and say, ‘He’s got guns and he’s crazy and you need to take them away,’” said Culver.
One thing the public appears to be interested in is taking weapons of war off the streets, if possible. “I believe there should be more checks on people buying automatic weapons,” said Sue Hopkins.
“I wish they would get the automatic weapons out,” said Dawn Hopkins. “There is a video on Facebook going around about military people who had to use them to fight wars, and they explain the PTSD they deal with because they have seen one of those guns literally blow a hole through you. Those don’t need to be around. They have rifles that can do stuff. You don’t need to have the AKs and really high-powered stuff. That needs to go.”
But while folks may be fine with a little tinkering around the edges on gun laws, there appears to be no appetite for banning or confiscating guns. “I am a firm believer in the second amendment,” said Dyer. “Taking guns away from law abiding citizens, I’m against that.”
“I am not a gun owner,” said Culver. “But I do believe in the second amendment. I believe in everybody’s right to keep and bare arms. If we are talking about taking guns away that would be an infringement on our rights.”
And while the gun debate continues, area residents say the recent shootings have had little impact on changing the way people think about the weapons. “I’ve always had a concern about guns,” said Holstein. “I was raised around guns and taught to respect them.”
“It has probably not changed my mind,” said Arnold. “It’s worrisome. There has been stuff like this that has happened all through history. The guns they are using .. they didn’t have those back then.”