York County gun owners OK with more background checks, skeptical of other measures

After a gunman entered a Florida school and killed 17 people, politicians and businesses are looking to change the way firearms are handled in the United States — and York County gun enthusiasts have mixed opinions of the moves.

Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart are among a handful of retailers that have limited the types of guns they will sell in their stores and raised the minimum age to purchase weapons.

Dick's, for instance, will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21 and will no longer carry "assault-style" rifles. 

Additionally, a bill in the Senate has re-emerged that, if passed, would push for stronger background checks. 

Dicks Sporting Goods in West Manchester Township.7

Some gun owners in York County, while in favor of increased background checks, are opposed to raising the age limit for gun purchases.

“I feel that at age 18, if you can serve your country, you should be able to buy guns, no matter what kind it is, as long it is the legal way," Springettsbury Township resident Chad Huyett said.

Increasing the age: Huyett's thoughts were echoed by Scott Morris, owner of Freedom Armory in Glen Rock.

Scott Morris, owner of Freedom Armory, stands behind a counter at the gun shop near Glen Rock Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.  Bill Kalina photo

Morris added that 16-year-olds are able to drive a car, which he referred to as a "lethal weapon."

"Cars kill more people than guns do," he said.

Like Huyett, Morris asked why 18-year-olds in the military can hold certain weapons but would not be allowed to own one.

"Where's the logic in that?" he said.

Thomas Mundis, of Penn Township, had similar thoughts. 

“My personal opinion, I think it’s ridiculous because you’re old enough to go into the military at 18, why are you restricting them?" he said.

Huyett pointed to the Sandy Hook shooting, in which the shooter took his mother's weapon.

“I honestly don’t think it’s going to stop anything," he said.

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Banning certain weapons: Mundis said he understood to an extent why the stores decided to stop selling "assault-style" rifles but said the stores were going about it the wrong way.

The problem, he said, is “a gun in the hands of a person that has this anger in their heart."

Thomas Mundis of Hanover was paralyzed from his chest down in a motorcycle accident in July 2013. The avid hunter didn't let his injuries stop him and now he's hoping to help others. Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo


That idea was echoed by Morris. 

“It’s the person behind it that’s messed up,” he said, adding that the country does not have a "hardware problem."

Morris also referenced the Zachary Witman case, when 15-year-old Zachary Witman stabbed his brother dozens of times, killing him in their New Freedom home in 1998. Witman pleaded guilty to the slaying just last month.

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“So are we going to get rid of all the ... knives in the country?" he said. "This is moronic.”

Background checks: Sen. Pat Toomey R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin D-W.Va., are pushing a bill to broaden background checks, which would include pre-purchase reviews online and for gun show sales. 

Mundis said he didn't think increased background checks would be bad.

"Any law-abiding citizen really shouldn't have a problem with it," he said.

However, even if someone is denied a gun legally, they could find a gun elsewhere, Mundis said.

"Even if you could take every gun off of citizen's hands, you're really not going to take them off the street," he said.

Huyett said he wouldn't mind increased background checks either. He said it would keep mentally unstable people from getting guns.

"I don't feel that they should be able to own a gun," he said.

Morris said the problem lies with organizations not entering the information that would be flagged by the background-check system. He referenced the church shooting in Texas last year.

According to a report from The New York Times, the Air Force never entered former Airman Devin P. Kelley's domestic violence court martial in the database, which would have prevented him from purchasing guns. Kelley, 26, killed 26 people in the church that day.

“The guy got a gun because of the failure of that organization," Morris said.

As for gun shows, he said in Pennsylvania any private citizens selling their long guns, such as the AR-15, are not required to do background checks on who they sell to, so long as the customer is over 18. Dealers, he said, are required to do background checks.

He said if people have a problem with that, then there should be forced background checks for private sales. 

“Is that what the public wants to do?” he asked.

In a joint statement  Feb. 28, Toomey and Manchin said that they spoke to President Donald Trump, and it was "very encouraging."

"His desire for a comprehensive approach to strengthening the background check system, and specifically using Manchin-Toomey as the foundation, would achieve our shared goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and terrorists while respecting the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding Americans," the statement reads in part.

 — Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser. 

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.