Wednesday, January 30, 2013

TOP STORY >> Amidst fears, firearm sales spike in area

Leader staff writer

Local gun-shop owners are having trouble keeping weapons on their shelves because customers are up in arms about proposed federal legislation to regulate their sale.

The gun-control debate was sparked by the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and seven adults.
One of the guns he used was a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle. Lanza committed suicide as police were closing in on him at the school.

Tom Denniston, the owner of Fort Thompson in Sherwood, said, “We’ve been totally swamped ever since the shooting. People are worried about new laws. It’s putting them in a frenzy or panic.”

J.D. Beldon, owner of Cabot Gun and Ammo, agreed. But he said this started the day after the November election when guns from two of his distributors were sold out.

Beldon said, “The biggest thing is it’s created a frenzy. We have so many people buying up all they can.”

He added, “Prices have skyrocketed.” Beldon said people are selling a $700 gun for $2,000 because of the increased demand.

According to Beldon, most of the recent customers want AR-15 rifles and high-capacity handguns. “I can’t replace the stock I’m selling,” he said. Beldon has 40 percent less inventory than he would typically have.

Denniston said the panicked customers are people he sees regularly — stay-at-home moms, schoolteachers, farmers and others.

He continued, “Customers are saying, ‘It’s our Second Amendment right. Why are they penalizing me? What did I do? I pay my taxes.’”

President Barack Obama executive actions that do not need congressional approval. They give current gun-control laws more teeth as well as address school safety and mental health.

Obama also asked Congress to require background checks on all gun sales, reinstate a ban on “military-style assault weapons,” ban magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds and levy higher penalties on straw purchasers.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks on buyers. Straw purchasers are people who buy guns for individuals who wouldn’t be allowed by law to own a gun.

But Arkansas legislators are moving in the opposite direction, toward less gun control.

The state Senate on Monday voted 28-4 for a proposal that would allow people with concealment licenses to bring their guns into places of worship. The proposal has been sent to the House for approval.

The House voted to support a resolution asking that the federal government not encroach on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Jan. 19 was Gun Appreciation Day. Beldon, of Cabot Gun and Ammo, said his store had an above average turnout — more than 100 people compared to between 70 and 80. But he said the range part of his business has been slow lately because people don’t want to waste their ammunition in case a federal law is passed that limits how much of it they can buy.

Denniston, of Fort Thompson, dis-agrees with most of the federal government’s push to strengthen gun control, but supports making private sellers run background checks on buyers. Beldon feels the same way.

Beldon explained that gun dealers like him have to apply to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for a three-year license. Every licensed dealer uses the same federal form to conduct a background check on each customer. The penalties for putting the wrong information on that form include fines and jail time, Beldon said.

He added, “Universal background checks is not a bad thing.”

Denniston said, “You can’t fix crazy. Any kind of gun legislation isn’t going to stop (mass shootings). I think we’re fine. If you can’t keep guns out of criminals’ hands, a law-abiding citizen should be able to have them.”

Denniston said gun sellers are trying to rename what people refer to as “assault rifles” like the AR-15 to better reflect how most owners use them. He calls them “modern sporting rifles.”

“They’re great to shoot. They’re fun at the range. It’s not the gun that is the problem. It’s the people,” Denniston said.

Beldon said the AR in “AR-15” was never supposed to translate to “assault rifle.” He said the “AR” is an abbreviation for “ArmorLite,” the company that produced the first M-16.

Beldon said ammunition for the AR-15 rifles “used to be reasonably priced” and they have collapsible stocks. That means that a 6-year-old could use the same gun as his dad, Beldon explained.

He said the collapsible stock allows people to adjust the gun according to their height.

Beldon said, “Ninety-nine percent of Americans are good gun owners.”

Denniston said gunlocks and safes are popular items at his store. Denniston suggested that people who feel strongly about not having any more restrictions join the National Rifle Association.

“That is our voice in Congress. They carry a big stick,” Denniston said.

He added that having an armed police officer at school is “probably a good idea.”

Beldon said, “I don’t know if it’s going to stop anything from happening.” He added that if armed guards are placed at schools they should be “true trained professionals.”

Beldon’s store also provides concealed carry classes. He said the classes are booked for two months, which is not the norm.

He said the instructors have had an average of 200 students when they normally teach about 60.