KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Leadership at the National Rifle Association has been relatively quiet following President Obama's recent executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence. But at the grassroots level, NRA members continue to hold classes and events and do their own advocacy. From member station WYSO, Lewis Wallace headed to an NRA concealed carry class inside a member's house in Xenia, Ohio.
LEWIS WALLACE, BYLINE: Against the wall in Jesse Mackey's living room, there's a glass case with an extensive display of Precious Moments, those porcelain dolls with the big eyes. He'd like to replace that, to expand his store.
JESSE MACKEY: I have a lot of gun-cleaning stuff and some accessories.
WALLACE: Mackey's a licensed firearms dealer, and he's showing me this small display of supplies in his front hall next to piles of kids' coats and boots and, of course, the Precious Moments dolls. But I'm here today because there's a class going on. Behind us, 13 men and women are crowded around Mackey's long dining room table, bundled for the snowy weather. They're filling out a written test on gun safety.
MACKEY: Well, go over the test after you're done with it, and then as you're doing the test, I'm going to print up your guys' certificates.
WALLACE: Later, they'll go out to a range at his cousin's house to shoot, but for now, he takes a seat in a rocking chair at the head of the table to review their tests.
MACKEY: Number one is B. Two is B. Three is...
WALLACE: Jesse Mackey's been holding these classes at his home for a decade now. After the test, he orders pizza for the group. While we wait, Mackey says lately, these courses are always packed.
MACKEY: They got really crazy after the Paris attacks and after all the terrorist attacks out in California.
WALLACE: The busyness started after Obama got elected.
MACKEY: It was great for me, but (laughter)...
WALLACE: Mackey's a life member of the NRA, which opposes almost any expansion of gun control. But he actually doesn't have a problem with the president's recent executive action on guns.
MACKEY: I mean, I understand that he's trying to make everything safer for everybody.
WALLACE: The president's latest action does potentially make it harder to sell a gun privately or at a show without getting a license and requiring background checks for more purchasers. But Jesse Mackey's mild view of the whole thing isn't unusual for gun owners. A 2013 Pew poll found 8 in 10 gun owners supported these kinds of rules. But another NRA life member, Erik Blaine, says not everyone is so relaxed. Blaine calls himself a gun-law attorney and says concerned gun owners have been calling him all week.
ERIK BLAINE: Through both phone calls and to the firm, to myself, to my cell phone, we've experiences a lot of questions.
WALLACE: He thinks it won't be clear whether a private owner can sell a gun without registering as a deal.
BLAINE: The executive actions have muddied the waters as far as legal interpretation of what is or is not a firearms dealer.
WALLACE: Despite the organization's loud and persistent voice, NRA members still make up a small minority of gun owners - less than 10 percent. And back in Jesse Mackey's concealed carry class, no one wants to discuss their political views except a tall man named William Richardson, is not an NRA member himself. Talking in a hushed tone next to Jesse's household gun supply display, he says the executive action is just fine with him.
WILLIAM RICHARDSON: Would should be as proactive as we possibly can within the restraints of the Second Amendment. So I'm OK with it.
WALLACE: Even though it could conceivably put more restrictions on him and his hobby of collecting guns. What does he have a problem with - the idea that the NRA speaks for all gun owners.
RICHARDSON: It might have too much power. I don't know. They might, you know?
WALLACE: The NRA's national legal arm issued a statement last week accusing President Obama of fear mongering, among other things. But for the most part, he's just ramping up enforcement of laws that already exist. Even NRA leadership has indicated they don't think these actions will change much. For NPR News, I'm Lewis Wallace.
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