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Gun owners sound off on President’s proposals

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Updated: February 21, 2013 6:41AM



SOUTH ELGIN — Frank Tripoli owns two guns: a Remington 870 Express 12-gauge shotgun (something he considers not a gun, but a “tool” for deer hunting) and a Hi-Point Compact 9-millimeter handgun.

He used to own more, including an AK-47 — one of those much talked about “military-style assault weapons.” He recently sold the weapon for more than twice what he’d paid for it as demand for guns and ammunition have skyrocketed.

He owns them, he said, “to protect my family.”

“The second amendment gives me the right to bear arms, and it’s not just that — it’s the protection of my family, to save the livelihood of my family and to know if something were to happen, I’d be able to protect them,” Tripoli said.

The second amendment is wordier than just “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” though, he said. It begins with the words “a well regulated militia.”

“’Well-regulated’ are the key words. They have to be regulated,” he said.

While Tripoli doesn’t support all the proposed regulations to reduce gun violence President Barack Obama announced Wednesday, he said, “I think there is a lot of legislation that could be give and take between the pro- and anti-gun groups.”

And the South Elgin gun owner isn’t the only one who favors some new legislation on guns.

The president’s proposed gun control package includes universal background checks for those buying guns, a ban on “military-style assault weapons,” and a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines. It also includes steps aimed at making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

Even before those proposals were announced, 85 percent of Americans said they support background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows, the Pew Research Center reported Monday. Pew also reported 58 percent of Americans favor a ban on semi-automatic weapons, 55 percent favor a ban on “assault-style” weapons and 54 percent, on high-capacity magazine clips.

But those numbers don’t reflect the opinions expressed by many gun owners last week across the Fox Valley, many of whom feel the president’s proposals will to little to address the issues that lead to gun violence.

Naperville club

Gunshots echoed Thursday night in downtown Naperville, the simultaneous crack of a shotgun and orange explosion of a clay pigeon reverberating in the open woods of Sportsman’s Park.

That’s where the first group of five men rotated through a line, taking aim at voice-triggered pigeons, spot-lit against the dark trees. All were protected against the January cold and repeated blasts by safety goggles, earplugs and warm winter coats.

Trapshooting is an Olympic sport, said Naperville Sportsman’s Club President Dick Monk; the guns used by many club members, family heirlooms. The men and women who founded the Naperville club in the 1880’s had been some of the leading families in the community, Monk said.

Jay Spitz, a range officer for the Naperville Park District, called shooting sports “a very wholesome form of family recreation.”

“Most folks who do shooting sports are family people,” Spitz said. “They care about their children, they care about their families, they care about their neighbors. … We’re just like everybody else. Our hobby may be a little different.”

The government determining what kind of ammunition or weapon he does or doesn’t need is “ridiculous,” he said. And limiting the number of bullets to a magazine, limiting the characteristics of a particular firearm — that’s a Band-Aid on the gun violence issue anyway, he said.

Most of the people killing other people with guns likely didn’t get those guns in legal ways, he said. So it’s “law-abiding folks” who “seem to always take it on the chin,” he said.

GAT Guns

GAT Guns in East Dundee “absolutely” has seen an increase in gun and ammunition sales — GAT Vice President Greg Tropino declined to say how much — since Obama announced last month he’d take on the issue of gun violence.

That’s because, Tropino said, “People always psychologically have a fear of the unknown.”

And nobody knew what the president’s plan would include until Wednesday. Nobody knows still whether Congress will pass his proposals. Regardless, he said, “None of these things are going to affect anything, and it’s sad. It’s sad. … I don’t mind people trying to make things safer, but make an informed decision.”

Tropino said most murders in the U.S. are related to gang and drug disputes or similar activity, and most are committed with handguns – that last part, at least, backed up by the U.S. Department of Justice. Nearly 75 percent of all murders committed with firearms in 2005 were committed using handguns, according to the department.

The firearms superstore sells both magazines and what would be considered assault weapons, according to the GAT website. And it performs background checks on everybody — even if it were the chief of police buying a gun, Tropino said. “Gun stores are going to be around, regardless of this event happening. We’ve gone through this before,” he said.

Tripoli, who does not belong to any gun clubs or associations, went through the process to get his Firearms Owner Identification card, required in Illinois to buy or own a gun, in 2010. He was a cab driver, and, with the economic downturn came an uptick in drivers being robbed, he said.

“I figured it would be in my best interest to protect myself,” he said.

He keeps his two guns in his closet, unloaded, nowhere near where he keeps his ammunition, he said. And while his three children 7 and under play with plastic Star Wars blasters and other toy guns, he said, they know never to touch the real thing.

Tripoli doesn’t favor a ban on military-style weapons — “We’re quick to judge in our time and day. We look at things as what we imagine they do, not what they actually do,” he said. And while he doesn’t support a 10-round limit on magazines, he doesn’t favor extended magazines, either, he said.

He would, however, like to see more consistent gun laws from state to state — at least something like Illinois’ FOID card, which he called “very smart.”

And he’d like to see more input on the legislation from the gun owners who will be affected by it, more discussion between pro- and anti-gun groups, he said. He and his wife Teresa have friends and family on both sides of the issue, he said. Both have good ideas — but both have bad ideas, too, he said.

“That’s what we should be fighting for: a law written by the people for the people,” Tripoli said.



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