Gun legislation draws reactions from U.P. residents

Amanda Monthei

Since the middle of December, outdoor retailer Wilderness Sports in Ishpeming has had a waiting list for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles—a list that is currently 15 customers long and counting.

Being one of only a handful of gun retailers in Marquette County and this region of the Upper Peninsula, the business in downtown Ishpeming has been receiving a large amount of calls and requests for automatic weapons.

The calls—which are a result of recent gun legislation aiming to ban the purchase of automatic, military-style weapons—have been streaming into the business from not only downstate Michigan, but also from as far away as New York state, according to Wilderness Sports employee Mike Leach.

“As far as getting calls and that kind of thing, it’s been incredible,” Leach said. “That’s the only word I can use to describe it. We’re getting calls from all over the place looking for (automatic) weapons. You name it, we’re getting calls from all over.”

The root of this sudden increase in automatic weapon requests has been grounds for extensive controversy in recent weeks, as legislation for new gun control regulations were introduced by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

If enacted by Congress, the legislation will not only ban the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, but will also make universal background checks mandatory prior to the purchase and sale of firearms.

On Northern’s campus, the weapons ban will hardly affect students who store their guns at the Public Safety office, according to Director of Public Safety and Police Services Mike Bath.

“(Assault weapons) are still legal, but our typical guns are shotguns, deer rifles and a few handguns,” he said. “We also have lots of bows—that’s an up-and-coming sport and in fact we had to expand in our gun and bow area due to the number of bows.”

Bath also said that until there is a law passed, he is unsure of what will actually come of the proposed legislation.

“They’ve proposed some things, but until it actually shakes out, we’re just not going to know,” Bath said. “Until we see what the final version looks like, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen.”

According to Bath, gun-related incidents are a rarity on NMU’s campus, yet the nationwide push for gun control legislation and the subsequent controversy comes after a particularly deadly year of mass shootings in the United States as a whole in 2012.

According to, seven mass shootings took place in the U.S. in 2012, killing or injuring 140 total people.

The demand for stricter gun legislation has become more widespread in the wake of events like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooting and the shooting in a Portland, Ore. mall just days before the Sandy Hook incident.

Leach, who recoils at the media’s use of the term “assault weapons,” and instead refers to them as automatic or semi-automatic weapons, asserted that the recent legislation has generated mostly negative responses among customers, who don’t see the necessity for any type of gun regulation.

“Many have been against (regulation), but part of that is just going to be the clientele,” he said. “We do deal mainly with people buying these things because (they’re) going to be a illegal soon.”

The clientele he is referring to has, in just more than 14 days, bought six “assault weapons,” but Leach is still significantly limited in prospective sales due to nationwide shortages of the firearms.

“We’re out of stock right now,” he said. “If I could, I’d get 20 (right now), but it just doesn’t work that way with the nationwide demand the way it is. We’re lucky to get one or two per week.”

Another facet of the argument regarding gun control is concerned with not just the regulation of military-grade weapons, but also a confrontation of other institutional and societal obstacles.

“I think our problem lies not in insufficient gun laws, but the fact that we don’t treat our people as our greatest resource,” NMU student Lydia Kauppi said, citing deficient education and health care reform as a main issue in the argument over government gun control.

That said, accessibility to healthcare for those with mental health illness is another initiative that President Obama vows to address within the limits of the executive office, according to

Still, Kauppi said in order to curb gun violence, citizens, as well as governmental bodies, need to begin taking responsibility for their own futures and actions, and in doing so begin changing the way we understand and use firearms.

“If you want a population responsible enough to own high-power firearms, you need to engage in greater collective accountability,” she said.