The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 18, 2012

Gun advocates conflicted on changes after massacre

— KITTERY, Maine (AP) — In a region where gun ownership is a cherished right, holiday shoppers snake through rows of shotguns, pistols and semi-automatic assault rifles at the Kittery Trading Post. The school massacre in Connecticut — and potential changes to firearms laws because of it — is fresh on their minds.

AR-15 assault rifles in particular have been flying off the shelves here and elsewhere, according to a trade group that attributes the sales boom to fears among gun owners that the weapon — the same used by a gunman at an elementary school to kill 26 people, including 20 young children— will be outlawed.

Among the aisles packed with bullets and used firearms, shoppers say they are deeply conflicted about the proper response to the massacre.

"If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns," says 51-year-old gun owner Perry Clark, sharing a quote from his father.

But asked about the need for semi-automatic assault rifles, Perry, the father of a first-grader, strikes a different tone: "Assault rifles are designed to assault. They're designed to kill," he says, adding that he's been deeply disturbed by the school shootings. "I'm very leery of assault rifles."

In interviews that provide a snapshot of what some gun owners are feeling, most agreed with President Barack Obama's recent declaration that changes are needed to protect America's children. Some questioned the need for automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons. Others said there should be more background checks or mental health exams for gun owners. And most called for greater emphasis on mental health and school safety.

"Teachers should be armed," 24-year-old Danny Allen said this week, after browsing the Trading Post's gun section. Allen, on active duty with the Navy, argued that tightening gun laws is unnecessary because "criminals don't abide by gun laws." He defended the need for semi-automatic weapons, saying: "With semi-automatic, it's easier to kill a deer. With semi-automatic, it'll be easier to kill the person trying to kill your kids."

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