By Jean Cole
Tighter gun-control legislation, while certainly on the horizon, will not solve the problem of mad men shooting unarmed people, according to several local dealers of guns or gun supplies.
Craig Brown of Craig’s Gun & Tactical of U.S. 72 East in Athens said Monday his shop has seen sales of semiautomatic guns and ammunition double since President Barack Obama was re-elected in November, then double again following the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He believes would-be gun buyers fear more restrictive gun legislation is coming because Obama —who has always supported gun control — has won re-election and because the mass shooting of 20 school children and six school employees shocked the nation.
Brown and other gun brokers expect sales of such weapons to continue to grow. He and several other area gun dealers and gun-supply sellers were contacted Monday by The News Courier. We asked if gun sales had increased since the mass shooting and whether they believed President Obama’s remarks Sunday alluding to greater control of semi-automatic weapons and ammunition would result in tighter gun laws.
Brown said he was not surprised by the move to restrict guns in the wake of the shooting. He said he understands why people are afraid. However, he doubts the problem of mass shootings can be solved with restrictions on the manufacture of additional semiautomatic guns. He noted that the Connecticut gunman obtained his guns from his mother, who he also fatally shot before attacking the school and killing himself.
Shooting hit home
As the husband of a Limestone County schoolteacher, Brown said he just asked the principal at his wife’s school if he could pay at least $50,000 to place one armed school-resource officer, or SRO, at her school, which he declined to name.
Brown believes armed officers are the way to stop violence like what occurred in Connecticut. Most counties, he said, probably cannot afford such officers. Limestone County high schools have had them since about 2000, Capt. Fred Sloss said.
Currently, the Limestone County Commission and the county schools split the $516,908 per year cost for the seven officers, which covers salaries, overtime, insurances, uniforms, fuel & lubricants, tires and tubes, repair and maintenance of motor vehicles and repair and maintenance of communications equipment, according to County Administrator Pam Ball.
Brown does favor enacting legislation that would allow law-enforcement to charge any gun owner who fails to secure his or her weapons and those weapons are stolen and used in a violent crime.
He also believes there are existing laws that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“There are well over a billion guns in this country,” Brown said. “Many are smuggled in by people doing these shootings, not through legal means, anyway. The kid who did the shooting could have gone to any gun show to buy one. The majority of the sellers at those gun shows do not have federal firearms licenses. People can walk in and buy a gun with cash and leave.”
Brown also said that under the law, “You have a right to sell personal guns but if you buy a gun to make a profit, then you need a federal firearms license to sell it. What these people are doing is illegal, we are just not enforcing the law.”
Brad Reasonover, employee at Bradford’s Pawn and Gun on South Marion Street in Athens was not surprised by Obama’s suggestion that the country move toward tighter gun laws. He said his (Obama’s) record in the Senate has been to always support tougher control.
Unlike Brown, he is not sure what has prompted the increase in semiautomatic gun sales in the past weeks.
“We have had increased sales, but its hard to tell this time of year because a lot of people are buying Christmas presents,” he said. “I do think that in the next few months we will see an increase in the sales of semiautomatic rifles.”
He believes remarks made by Obama, California Sen. Diane Feinstein and other lawmakers indicate, “They do want to take some legislative step to try to restrict the average citizen’s right to get certain guns. I would not be surprised to see something like the Clinton assault-rifle and high-capacity (magazine) ban. That ban prevented the continued manufacture and sale of guns, but it did not affect those who already had guns. Reasonover doubts the country will ever go so far as to force a gun turn-in for existing owners.
However, he does expect to see an increase in the cost of both semiautomatic guns and ammunition as states decide to possibly increase taxes on guns, which some refer to as a “violence tax.”
“With the fiscal cliff, they are looking for things they can tax, and with the public outrage over the mass shooting, the majority view — though maybe not in this state — is not very positive for guns and ammo right now,” Reasonover said.
Reasonover added that most people don’t consider that these types of mass shooters look for what he called a “gun-free zone where they know there is no resistance” before shooting. “They go where they think their victims are defenseless,” he said, mentioning the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
“It’s really easy to get caught up emotionally,” he said. “I think it is important to keep common sense and look at empirical evidence, not just pass some legislation that makes a legislator look like they are taking action.”
Fight fire with fire
One area gun-supplies seller, who asked to remain anonymous, told The News Courier he believes teachers should be packing.
“Teachers should be armed and be trained,” he said. “All of these different places — malls, theaters, schools, there is signage saying ‘no firearms.’ The good guys leave theirs in the car and the bad guys come in with theirs. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.