By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — Sales of guns and ammunition at three local gun shops rose again after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., business owners said, and demand continues to increase as the debate about gun control intensifies at state and federal levels.
“Sales have increased unbelievably,” Jim Losie, owner of Losie’s Gun Shop in Oneonta, said Thursday.
Losie and owners of Mayhood’s Sporting Goods in Norwich and Lyn’s Leisure Tyme Gun Shop in Davenport previously said gun sales had spiked after President Barack Obama was re-elected in November.
The gun shop owners agreed that the prospect of tightened gun control and limited ability to buy guns has prompted would-be owners to quit procrastinating and buy firearms.
The demand has reduced their inventory of guns and ammunition, they said, and like retailers nationally, their supply depends on wholesalers who cannot keep up with orders.
The three gun shop owners also supported the idea that having an armed presence, not necessarily by a uniformed law enforcement officer, at schools could deter a gunman or other violent incident.
On Dec. 14, a gunman opened fire using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 first-graders and six educators. The gunman also shot his mother, who owned the rifle, and himself.
“People are so disgusted and outraged that these little children were killed,” Linda Fitzgerald, owner of Lyn’s Leisure Tyme Gun shop, said.
However, concerns about legislation that would restrict gun ownership have prompted purchases, she said.
Within days after the Newtown shootings, Fitzgerald said, her inventory of AR-15 rifles was gone, and gun sales otherwise have been “absolutely crazy.” With limits on new stock, she said, the shop is looking into the availability of used firearms.
This past week, lawmakers in New York and in Washington, D.C., worked on gun control issues and legislation.
The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun-rights group, has blocked gun-control efforts and opposes new ones. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre condemned efforts to tighten gun laws and instead recommended putting armed guards in all schools to stop shootings.
The general idea isn’t far-fetched, according to the three local gun shop owners. Schools that are “gun-free” zones are vulnerable to an attack by someone who knows they are “easy-pickings” and won’t react in a show of force. An armed presence could be a deterrent, they said.
Losie suggested veterans returning from Afghanistan, after passing psychological evaluations, could be hired at teacher salaries to provide protection at schools. They would be a deterrent to violence at schools, he said, and the step would provide jobs to veterans.
Fitzgerald said teachers or principals, properly trained, could carry guns as a life-saving deterrent.
Mike Mayhood, owner of Mayhood’s Sporting Goods, said an armed presence might prompt a perpetrator to “think twice” about attacking a school.
This week in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden met to discuss gun control issues with NRA officials Thursday and with victims groups and gun-safety organizations Wednesday.
In New York, state law already bans assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic guns that can accept detachable magazines and have military-style features. State law also bans magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets and were made after 1994.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address called for restrictions to close loopholes in the state’s ban and for reviews of handgun license-holders to ascertain whether they still qualify to possess weapons.
Mayhood said some loopholes need to be closed, such as the lack of background checks. But guns — used for hunting, protection and recreation — are a necessary part of life in the United States, he said, and citizens’ rights to own firearms shouldn’t be taken away.
“It’s a fine line,” he said. “Nobody wants the wrong person to have a gun.”
The recent rise in ammunition sales is a seasonal increase generated by Christmas gifts of firearms, Mayhood said.
Also this week, a newly formed coalition of gun rights and conservative groups set Jan. 19 as “Gun Appreciation Day.” Organizers urge Americans to rally at guns stores, ranges and show in a public statement against government policies two days before the presidential inauguration.
Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to take steps against gun violence.
But Americans are fed up with laws that restrict their freedoms, Losie said, and the prospect of increased gun control has spurred gun sales.
“People aren’t going to get told what they’re going to do in the United States,” he said, describing gun control as a “bunch of garbage.” More deaths in the nation are the result of alcohol and automobiles and physical violence than shootings, he said, and a pump-action shotgun can do more damage than a semi-automatic firearm.
“We’re blaming the tool, not the fool,” Losie said. “If someone is going to do something stupid, they’re going to do it.”