KINGMAN - Firearms instructor Jim Jett and Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan agreed that the nation doesn't need more restrictions on gun owners - it needs to enforce existing laws and offer more help to people with mental health problems.
It's not as easy as some people think to get approved to purchase a firearm, Jett, a National Rifle Association instructor and the
owner of range officer at Bank Street Guns, told members of the Mohave Republican Forum Wednesday evening.
"I want to dispel the myth that it's 'easy' to purchase a firearm," he said, waving the three- page federal form gun buyers are required to fill out for each purchase. "This is not a 'walk-in/walk-out' process."
Jett took the next 20 minutes to go line by line through the form. Some of the information collected by the form includes a person's birth name, current address, date of birth, city of birth, height, weight, gender, ethnic background, criminal background, driver's license number, if they are purchasing the weapon for themselves or someone else, if a court has determined that they were mentally ill or a danger to others at any point in their life, concealed weapons permit number (if you have such a permit) and the make, model, serial number and caliber of each gun purchased.
The information is sent into a central database for a background check, followed by a call back to the shop with one of three outcomes - the OK, delay or disapproval of the gun purchase.
Purchases can be delayed for any number of reasons, including having the same name as someone else living elsewhere in the U.S., Jett said.
Purchases can be denied for a number of reasons, he said, including a prior criminal conviction, a court finding of mental illness, or the address on your driver's license not matching your current address.
It's also a myth that people who purchase guns at gun shows don't have to fill out paperwork, Jett said. The only time paperwork is not filled out is when gun ownership is transferred from one private individual to another.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut wouldn't have happened if help for people suffering from mental illness was more readily available, Jett said.
In December 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, 20 children and six educators before killing himself.
According to a March New York Times article, police found numerous weapons in Lanza's house, allegedly purchased by his mother for herself and him to practice target shooting. Family friends claim that Lanza was diagnosed with a form of autism, although police were never able to confirm that diagnosis.
Sandy Hook should never have happened because the shooter was underage and had a history of mental problems, Jett said - Lanza's mother broke the law when she purchased guns for him.
Jett pointed to the section of the form that asks if a purchaser had ever been judged mentally ill or a danger to others.
It always comes back to people with mental health problems, Sheahan said. Families are responsible for getting them help and locking up their weapons.
"They can come to us for help and we will direct them where they can find help," he said. "When a tragedy such as Sandy Hook occurs, there's always an overreaction."
The Obama Administration in particular has been overreaching where it comes to federal powers, especially on the Second Amendment rights, Sheahan said. He pointed to recent laws passed in Connecticut, New York and Colorado that restrict the rights of gun owners and the proposals for more federal laws to do the same.
Restrictions don't work. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and one of the worst rates of murder committed by firearms. The restrictions on the size of gun magazines are particularly ridiculous, he said. You can change a magazine in an instant.
"Gun-free zones are a myth," he said.
Criminals are going to bring guns into a gun-free zone. You should have the right take a gun in and defend yourself, he said.
"We don't need new laws. The laws work, if you enforce them," Sheahan said. "They're taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
"We've moved forward with gun rights in the state since Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne took office," Sheahan said. "But we have to maintain a Legislature that holds our values. Research your local elected officials; support those who support your principals. You don't have to agree with them on everything."