WEST MICHIGAN — While Mike Visser doesn't hesitate when saying he believes more should be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, he argues law-abiding gun owners are being punished for the actions of a few.
Visser, the lead instructor for firearms training at Silver Bullet Firearms in Wyoming, said he's seen a dramatic increase in demand at his shop and he credits it to the current political climate and the president.
“Every time he (Obama) says something and mentions the word ‘gun,’ gun sales spike," Visser said. "It’s nationwide across the country, not just our store here, it’s everywhere.”
On Tuesday, Visser said he was troubled by President Obama's decision to use executive action to push his plan forward to curb gun violence.
“With a lot of people it is striking a very sour note, he’s just basically thumbing his nose at people saying if you’re not going to side with me… alright, I’ve got a pen, I’ve got a phone, I can just bypass all of it," he said.
Obama, at one point wiping tears from his cheek, unveiled his plan Tuesday to tighten control and enforcement of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of legal changes he implored Congress to pass.
Accusing the gun lobby of taking Congress hostage, Obama said "they cannot hold America hostage." He insisted it was possible to uphold the Second Amendment while doing something to tackle the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. that he said had become "the new normal."
"This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," Obama said in a ceremony in the East Room. "You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm. The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules."
Obama wiped tears away as he recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He paid tribute to the parents, some of whom gathered for the ceremony, who he said had never imagined their child's life would be cut short by a bullet.
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama said.
Despite the anticipation the president would use his executive authority to totally shut down widespread access to guns, the White House instead introduced administrative actions, many of which will require legislation action to ultimately complete anyway.
Here's what the plan WILL do:
- Calls for the hiring of more people to run the FBI background check system, which will allow processing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Requests Congress approve $500 million to increase access to mental health care.
- Require gun sellers, not hobbyists, to conduct background checks
Here's what is what the plan WON'T do:
- Ban high capacity magazines
- Ban gun sales to individuals listed on terrorists no-fly lists
- Require a background check for every private gun sale
The State of Michigan is considered a partial point-of-contact state because, while background checks requested by licensed dealers are processed directly through the FBI, Michigan requires that someone purchasing a handgun from a seller not federally licensed must have either a valid handgun purchase license or a license to carry a concealed handgun.
“There do need to be restrictions and regulations because I don’t want someone who just got released from prison for horrible violent things to be able to buy a gun from me so he can go out and do it again," Visser said. "But there has to be a middle ground. We can’t just restrict the rights of law abiding, decent upstanding people because one person does something bad.”
While a December Quinnipiac poll finds an overwhelming 89 percent of Americans overall support expanded background checks, a CNN poll from that same month shows a majority of Americans, 51 percent, oppose stricter gun laws.
Natalie Prochert with the West Michigan chapter for Moms Demand Action called Tuesday's announcement a long time coming, arguing that even constitutional freedoms sometimes come with limitations.
“I think this is an important step to prevent gun violence and to keep guns away from dangerous people," she said. "I think this is a way to help save people’s lives and I think that’s something everybody wants to do.”
Prochert said she doesn't believe it's a first step toward shredding the Second Amendment, but contends that feeling disheartened about gun violence should not be an excuse to simply not act.
“Congress failed us on this issue," she said. “I think it’s a goal of everyone to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, that benefits everyone."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.