Hunters and gun enthusiasts are up in arms this week over new Brady Act rules that went into effect Monday.
Now, when a customer walks into a gun shop to buy a rifle, he or she must fill out a four-page form and must pass a background check before the sale is rung up.
A similar background investigation was previously reserved strictly for the purchase of handguns, which in many states also included a five-day waiting period before a gun could be taken out of a store.
That first segment of the Brady Act was only an interim measure which expired Nov. 30. In its place are new rules which call for the instant background check for the purchase of all guns --from pistols to rifles to shotguns.
"The only gun that is exempt from this act is muzzle loaders," said Dan O'Donnell, manager of Wal-Mart's sporting goods department. "I guess they figure that since it takes so long to load one of those, muzzle loaders aren't that much of a threat."
Under the provisions of the new act, customers complete the firearms transaction record issued by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Questions on the form range from "Are you a fugitive from justice?" to "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana?"
That information is then called into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and an initial response is given to either proceed, deny or delay the transaction.
So far, the new Brady Act hasn't caused any headaches for employees of Wal-Mart's sporting goods department in Payson.
"We've only sold one gun this week, and the customer didn't mind the check," O'Donnell said. "It came back with a 'delay' so we couldn't sell it that day. If after three days we don't hear back from NICS, we can proceed with the sale."
In recent weeks, O'Donnell has been bombarded with memo after memo from the Wal-Mart corporate office with policy changes, revisions and corrections to the way the company handles gun sales.
"At first, we were being told that layaway gun sales would require a background check when the initial payment is made," he said. "Then, we were told if the gun sits for more than 30 days, a second check would be required. Now, they're telling us that the check should just be done when the gun is picked up."
Many argue that by subjecting law-abiding citizens to a background check, the federal government will be creating a national registry of gun owners.
"I think it's an intrusion. I think it's dangerous," said local hunter Russ Kinzer, also superintendent of the Payson Unified School District. "Every country that has lost its weapons has done so because of a national registry like this.
"This is pretty bothersome to me. I think it's dangerous, and dangerous to the country, to think that those records are going to be available to anyone, regardless of their intentions."
Tuesday, the National Rifle Association filed suit to block the FBI from maintaining a national computer list of gun owners. The NRA charges Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department with "illegal snooping on law-abiding citizens."
Kinzer, who is also the secretary of the Mogollon Sporting Association, said the new rules could wreak havoc on his group's annual banquet, which raises thousands of dollars for local youth programs. The main draw of the banquet for years has been the numerous gun auctions and raffles.
"Those auctions could become much more difficult to manage," Kinzer said. "We've always had a federal firearms licensee on hand to register the weapon, but now we'll have to do a check first. Now, it might be a few days before the winner can pick up their gun, if at all."
Second Amendment rights
Star Valley gun dealer Bronco Dawson said he feels the new Brady bill flies in the face of the intentions of the Second Amendment. Dawson also owns gun shops in four states.
"I'm a firm believer in constitutional law," he said. "But, they're going to do to this what they've done to everything else. Owning a gun is a right, not a privilege. We've become a victim environment. They had to appease the Brady bunch and got this bill passed."
Dawson said that as a gun shop owner as a responsible American, he doesn't have a problem with the 24-hour "cooling off" period, even though the Second Amendment doesn't provide for that.
"The guy that can't wait 24 hours for a gun probably needs it for something underhanded anyway," he said.
Dawson also believes that neither the old Brady nor the new act will do anything to make gun owners more responsible.
"What burns me is that kids are taking guns to school. Nobody in the world would want something like that. I'm 400 percent against that.
"But, again, it's not the gun that causes the problem, it's the people. You can take a gun, lay it there on the table and it will lay there for 30 years and never hurt a soul. You get that goofball behind it, and there's a problem."
Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said the intention of the Brady bill was to get guns out of the hands of criminals.
"If you talk to the Department of Justice, they'll tell you they've kept 275,000 guns away from felons," he said. "I suppose it's true. I suppose you could say that you've prevented 275,000 convicted felons from buying weapons through dealers."
Gartner said, however, that if one looks in any newspaper across the country, readers will find classified advertisements by private individuals selling all types of weapons. As an example, several weeks ago, an ad appeared in the Roundup by a person who was selling an AK-47 assault rifle. No background check is needed in a purchase like that.
"There's no law against that, as long as it's not an illegal weapon," Gartner said.