Montana Politics

Not Guns Again, Pete

Yup. It wasn’t my intention when I started writing at Intelligent Discontent to be cranking out post-after-post on gun violence. Circumstances seem to warrant it, though. The proposed, controversial Missoula ordinance to expand background checks for all gun sales and transfers is the latest catalyst.  That, and the killing of college students at Umpqua Community College, NAU and Texas Southern within the last week.

I can’t believe it’s been 16 years since I got a call from ABC News to track down the guy who sold the gun to Buford Furrow Jr.  Furrow had just shot up a Jewish daycare center in Grenada Hills, Calif., wounding two adults and three kids. Later that day, he shot and killed a Filipino mail carrier.

I was a freelance camera operator and stringer for ABC. I’m vague, these many years past, on the details of the gun purchase. Even the New York Times isn’t exactly sure how the Glock ended up in Furrow’s hands. Anyway, I was sent to Kalispell and Columbia Falls to find the dealer although I believe the gun in question had been sold to Furrow at a gun show in Spokane.

Turns out the dealer, whose name escapes me, was at the big gun show in Missoula. So it’s back to the Garden City where I pick up a producer friend of mine and it’s off to the Adams Center.

We buy tickets at the door and cruise in. Since the organizers probably thought we were doing a feature piece on the show for a local station, they pretty much left us alone.

We found the dealer but were a little late. ATF agents had been there before us and confiscated all his guns. He sat at his empty table alone with a forlorn look on his face. He did not want to talk to my producer.

Soon we were surrounded by a herd of pissed-off organizers and other gun enthusiasts accusing us (media types, I guess) of anti-gun bias and slanted reporting. They told us to leave but I get kind of obstinate in these situations and figured since it was a public event and I’d bought a ticket, I could stay. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed (that being my producer, Jim) and he reasoned that being heavily out-armed, we should exit the show.  We were escorted to the door.

The point of this anecdote? First, Furrow was a convicted felon with a history of mental illness but was still able to buy a Glock at a gun show. Second, the show’s organizer, Hayes Otoupalik, was one of the guys who confronted us at the dealer’s table. He’s been referenced in a recent Missoula Independent story and the blog Reptile Dysfunction.

One would think a table at the show that could facilitate background checks might keep everyone happy but Otoupalik says gun buyers will go elsewhere instead of submitting to “the hassle and expense,” as the Indy reports.  The writer adds:

Background checks cost up to $25 in fees, plus a few minutes of paperwork, and some customers oppose the federal system on principle.

Otoupalik says the proposed ordinance requiring background checks will “kill the Missoula Gun Show. It’s going to be dead.”

If the Missoula show organizers refuse to do background checks and it’s forced to close, well, I’d prefer to mourn a gun show than a classroom full of kids.


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  • the media has absolutely played a role in perpetuating the mass-casualty gun rampages–they are sensational stories the 24 hour news cycle love to saturate cover. maybe we should pass an ordinance limiting media coverage? after all, less coverage means less notoriety, which means less incentive for copy-cats to get the attention their sick minds crave.

    • “Guns don’t kill people, the media kill people” seems to be the gist of your comment. I imagine the media attention drives some wackos to do copy-cat massacres but I don’t believe that it’s the main explanation for gun violence in America.

      The recent NAU shooting wasn’t media driven, just an 18-year-old kid who brought a gun to a fight.

      • I don’t believe it’s the main reason either. there is no main reason. there is a sickness, to be sure, but to say “mental health” is totally inadequate. to say the media is at fault, or Marilyn Manson (Columbine scapegoat) is at fault, or this or that or whatever is to blame–none of that fits the scope of what’s happening in our society.

        • I agree with most of what you say. There is a sickness and to blame “mental health” is totally inadequate. Easy access to so many guns would be a major factor, though, IMHO.

      • Sorry, Craig, I had the NAU shooting on my mind when I responded to your question. Perhaps a background check for mental instability might have prevented the Oregon massacre. Perhaps not. Chris Harper-Mercer did have “developmental issues” according to his mother and also had been kicked out of the army after a month “for not demonstrating the basic administrative standards required to serve.”

  • A friend of mine check on the gun laws of Hawaii which hasn’t been tainted like us mainlanders have Here is what he had to say to us in the capital of suicides of Montana.:

    “I wanted to find out how gun regulations work here in the state of Hawaii so I visited a couple of locations selling sporting goods and guns to find out.
    First, there’s a background check that includes searching the criminal data base, and there’s also a medical records screening to determine whether someone has been under psychiatric or other mental health care treatments, but also to find out if certain drugs like anti-depressants or anti-psychotics were prescribed, and how recently if they were., they take this VERY seriously !
    Next, the weapon/s goes through a thorough registration process, afterward the new owner is required to take a gun safety course, ( only lasts an hour or so ), once completed the certificate of completion MUST be carried by the gun owner at all times when they’re in possession of the weapon/s, not carrying both the registration and gun safety certification means hefty fines.
    In 2013 the state of Hawaii had just 2.7 gun deaths per 100,000, lowest in the nation, the extreme opposite is true in states with relaxed gun laws.”

    My Opinion:I think we should have the same laws as Hawaii has. Like yesterday!!!!

  • The Missoula gun show is the largest of its kind in the state, I’ve been told. So the question that goes thru my mind is wouldn’t they just find a venue right outside the city limits?

    Proving once again that this is just symbolism over substance.

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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