Earlier this month, we were reporting a story about increased gun sales in Idaho following President Obama’s re-election. That took us to a gun store in Mountain Home, where we met 65-year-old Peter Humm.
"When I was at Notre Dame, going to college, 1967 – prior to the ’68 Gun Control Act, I ordered through the mail and had delivered to my dorm room, a Ruger 10-22 semiautomatic rifle. A little .22 caliber," he remembers. "And I used to sling that over my shoulder and walk across campus and go plinking in the woods. And nobody thought anything of it.”
Humm’s as a staunch a gun rights supporter. He was among the many we talked with who felt gun sales were up after the election out of fear in the gun community that President Obama would try and restrict access in his second term.
“I think Obama if he could, he would ban guns. But I think there’s enough Americans now that would actively resist that that I don’t really think it would get through Congress.”
The gun rights debate changed last Friday when 20 first-graders were murdered at their elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Six adults were also killed. So we called Humm to see if his opinions had changed. We asked how he felt when he heard the news.
"Well, my first reaction was just absolute horror. I mean, my God, 20 little kids being murdered by some evil…We sit here and we try and understand why that sort of thing happens, and I’m personally convinced that there’s just people that are evil."
If you talk with Humm about guns, you’ll quickly learn he has little use for lawmakers who support gun restrictions. California Senator Dianne Feinstein and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are two of his least favorite. Humm says he knew the gun control issue would become a top priority right after the shooting.
"I figured it would start immediately. In fact, as soon as I heard about this and as soon as I heard there was a Bushmaster involved, maybe, possibly - n assault weapon or whatever, I immediately thought ‘Here we go, they’re gonna start dancing in the blood again,’" Humm says. "And by God, Diane Feinstein did not disappoint me. She said that she’s been working on her assault weapon bill for a year and now is the time to introduce it. And I thought ‘You know, it’s pretty sick to look at something like this as an opportunity.”
So we asked Humm if he owned a gun similar to the one used in the shooting last Friday. "That’s kind of funny to ask in a way because I have a semi automatic rifle in .223 caliber. It doesn’t look bad because it doesn’t have a black stock. It’s got a wooden stock. It’s one of those Ruger Mini 14s as they call them. It would take a detachable magazine. The one I’ve got on it is a five-rounder because I use it for like, coyote hunting."
The type of rifle used in the Connecticut shootings has been described by gun critics as a weapon of war. But Humm says in places like Idaho, such a gun is quite popular.
"You would actually be surprised at how many people this particular gun for hunting," Humm explains. "In fact, they’re now making the AR platform in camouflage with what they call a picatinny rail and no iron sights for mounting scopes on. There are a lot of guys who’ve been in the military that are used to shooting this gun that like that configuration. And they use them for hunting everything from varmints to coyotes to deer to elk, even. You have people that just like to plink with them."
Humm says he’s okay with a national conversation taking place about gun violence. But he thinks for it to be fair, it must also include talk of mental health and violent video games. And 44 years after Humm says he lost his first right as a gun owner with the approval of the 1968 Gun Control Act, he’s annoyed he has to continue to defend his right to own firearms.
"I guess what I’m saying is I’m sorry, I don’t feel I have to demonstrate to won something that is lawful that I have never hurt anybody with in my life," Humm says. And the shooting he says has not softened his stance. "I don’t see why I should have my rights restricted because evil people do evil things."
Correction: In the original online and on-air version of this story, we incorrectly referred to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a Democrat. He is an Independent.
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio