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Gun Rights Supporters Carry On After Obama's Executive Actions

William Richardson is a private gun owner who could be affected by President Obama's recent executive actions; he has bought and sold guns in the past. But he's not too worried about it.
Lewis Wallace
William Richardson is a private gun owner who could be affected by President Obama's recent executive actions; he has bought and sold guns in the past. But he's not too worried about it.

Next to piles of kids' coats and boots, against the wall in the living room of Jesse Mackey's home in Xenia, Ohio, there's a glass case with an extensive display of Precious Moments, those porcelain dolls with the big eyes. Mackey would like to replace that — to expand his store.

"I have a lot of gun cleaning stuff and some accessories," he says.

Mackey is a licensed firearms dealer. Not only does he sell guns from his home, he teaches classes, too.

On a recent day, Mackey is holding a concealed-carry class. Thirteen men and women are crowded around his long dining room table, bundled for the snowy weather. They're filling out a written test on gun safety.

Later they'll go out to a range at his cousin's house to shoot. For now, he takes a seat in a rocking chair at the head of the table to review their tests.

Mackey has been holding these classes at his home for a decade now. After the test, he orders pizza for the group. Lately, Mackey says, the courses are always packed. "It got really crazy after the Paris attacks and after all the terrorist attacks out in California," he says.

He says the pace picked up after Obama was elected. "It's great for me!" he says with a laugh.

Mackey is a life member of the NRA, which opposes almost any expansion of gun control. But he actually doesn't have a problem with President Obama's recent executive actions on guns.

"I understand that he's trying to make everything safer for everybody," Mackey says.

Leadership at the National Rifle Association has been relatively quiet following the president's latest action, which does potentially make it harder to sell a gun privately or at a show without getting a license and requires background checks for more purchasers.

Mackey's mild view of the whole thing isn't that unusual for gun owners at the grass-roots level. A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 8 in 10 gun owners supported these kinds of rules.

But another NRA life member, Erik Blaine, says not everyone is so relaxed. Blaine calls himself a gun law attorney and says concerned gun owners have been calling him all week.

He thinks it won't be clear whether a private owner can sell a gun without registering as a dealer.

"The executive actions have muddied the waters as far as legal interpretation of what is or is not a firearms dealer," Blaine says.

Despite the organization's loud and persistent voice, NRA members still make up a small minority of gun owners, less than 10 percent.

Back in Mackey's concealed-carry class, no one wants to discuss their political views except a tall man named William Richardson, who is not an NRA member.

Talking in a hushed tone next to Mackey's household gun supply display, Richardson says the executive action is just fine with him.

"We should be as proactive as we possibly can within the restraints of the Second Amendment. So, I'm OK with it," Richardson says.

That's even though it could conceivably put more restrictions on him and his hobby of collecting guns.

He does have a problem with one thing, though: the idea that the NRA speaks for all gun owners.

"They might have too much power, I don't know," Richardson says. "They might."

The NRA's national legal arm issued a statement last week accusing President Obama of fearmongering, among other things.

But for the most part, he is just ramping up enforcement of laws that already exist: Even NRA leadership has indicated it doesn't think these actions will change much.

Copyright 2016 WYSO

Lewis Wallace comes to WYSO from the Pritzker Journalism Fellowship at WBEZ in Chicago, where he reported on the environment, technology, science and economics. Prior to going down the public radio rabbit hole, he was a community organizer and producer for a multimedia project about youth and policing in Chicago. Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., Lewis spent many years as a freelance writer, anti-oppression trainer, barista and sex educator in Chicago and in Oakland. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Northwestern University, and he has expanded his journalism training through the 2013 Metcalf Fellowship for Environmental Journalism and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources.

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