Weapon dealers: Freedoms at risk
Gun store owners on Wednesday pointed out the Catch-22 involved in President Obama's proposal to ban assault-style weapons: the threat is pushing more of the controversial guns into citizens' hands.
“Taking guns away is not the answer,” said Debbie Schultz, owner of Schultz's Sportsmen's Stop in Kiski Township. “As many (semi-automatic rifles) as are out there now, someone could find one anyway.”
Schultz said she currently has no assault-style rifles in stock: “They're in very, very, very limited quantities because the demand is huge. It's a demand that's never been like this before.”
Demand spiked after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 and the resulting national debate over whether limiting access to assault-style rifles would lessen the number of mass shootings.
Local gun sellers said the demand won't abate after Obama's presentation on Wednesday of proposals to reduce gun violence, which include reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban, limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, broadening the criminal background checks required to buy guns and adding more security guards at schools.
Schultz expects demand for high-capacity handguns and tactical-style weapons to remain high as long as a ban is under consideration.
The only deterrent will be the difficulty in acquiring them and resulting high prices, she said.
Anthony Ogline, co-owner of the Verona Gun Safe, pointed to a few semi-automatic rifles on display at his Allegheny River Boulevard shop on Wednesday. He said prices now range from $900 to $2,500 due to the difficulty in stocking them.
“Resupply is a serious problem,” said Ogline, noting ammunition also is selling fast.
He said demand is especially high for the Bushmaster AR-15 model carried by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza and alleged Aurora, Col., theater shooter James Holmes.
Ogline said he can't even order the gun and expects a customer could wait a year to get one — assuming a ban on assault-type rifles is not enacted first.
Gun sellers oppose ban
Ogline, his business partner Alexander Corn and Schultz all said they disagree with banning so-called assault rifles. Ogline and Corn also took offense at calling semi-automatic rifles assault weapons.
“These are not military guns,” Ogline said. “Ninety-nine percent of customers are good, hard-working people who enjoy the sport of shooting. It's an individual choice. It's our freedom — that's what is being threatened.”
Ogline likened choosing a semi-automatic rifle to a driver choosing a more powerful V8 engine over a four-cylinder engine — a matter of personal preference.
He said limiting the size of magazines wouldn't hamper an experienced shooter who could simply swap out smaller clips in a matter of seconds.
Corn fears Obama's suggestion to prohibit armor-piercing bullets would lead to a ban on all steel-core bullets, including bullets with a softer steel core that don't pierce armor but are a less-expensive option for customers.
All three owners said they don't oppose Obama's recommendation of requiring background checks for people buying long guns in addition to handguns.
But they said addressing the underlying causes of gun violence will be more effective than banning guns.
Schultz would like to see more effort put into helping people with mental illness.
“You have no control over when someone is going to lose control of their life,” she said. “Video games, movies, bullying in schools. These are all things that add to the pressures of life.”
Ogline, who said he is a former police officer, said economic stress is a leading factor in crime. He said people who have good jobs and enough money to support their families don't need to turn to violence.
“This is a piece of Scotch tape on a water main break,” Ogline said of president's proposals.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.