Sales are going strong at gun and pawn shops in Surry County due to buyers apparently trying to obtain weapons before more-stringent ownership restrictions possibly are imposed by the government.
“Handguns and assault rifles are flying off the shelf — there’s no keeping them in,” said Jason Isaacs, owner of Gun Country on Hadley Street in Mount Airy.
“Sales have been good,” Isaacs added. Friday afternoon, the parking lot of Gun Country was filled and at least 10 customers were inside looking at various firearms.
Similar activity was reported Friday at other businesses around the area, mirroring a situation across the country in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. That trend has people rushing to buy weapons, sparked by demands for increased regulation by gun-control advocates.
“Yeah, we’ve been pretty busy here,” said Patrick Ornelas, an employee of Rabbit Ridge Enterprises in Ararat, Va., another business that sells firearms. “Mainly bulk ammo and assault rifles,” Ornelas added of the popular sellers at Rabbit Ridge along with handguns. “They’ve spiked a little bit,” he said of the latter.
In light of the Newtown incident, federal officials including President Barack Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are renewing the call for a ban on assault rifles, given that the gunman involved there wielded a military-style assault weapon.
Some gun buyers simply seem to be trying to obtain certain weapons while they can, agreed Wesley Hawks of the What Do You Want? pawn shop in Mount Airy.
“We are seeing an increase in sales right now,” said Hawks, especially of “high-cap stuff,” (referring to high-capacity magazine) and ARs (ArmaLite rifles). The latter resemble military rifles, but mostly are associated with civilian uses including hunting, competition shooting and self defense.
Both new and repeat customers have been noted at the What Do You Want? shop.
“It’s a mix,” Hawks said. “We’re definitely getting some first-time buyers in.”
Isaacs, the Gun Country owner, said that shop also has “seen quite a few first-time buyers.”
“Home protection is a big thing — personal security is a big thing,” Mark Stanley, owner of a Dobson business, Mark’s Guns & Ammo, said of the motivation for recent gun purchases.
Isaacs acknowledged the sad reality that the brisk gun sales locally and nationwide of late are rooted in the event in Newtown. He would prefer strong business from his normal clientele rather than those simply reacting to a tragedy.
“We love to sell guns, but not under these circumstances.”
Handgun buyers in North Carolina are required to have purchase permits, and undergo a background check. “We have to do a federal background check on every single firearm that goes out of the store,” Isaacs said. It is aimed at making sure people who are convicted felons or adjudicated as mentally ill do not obtain guns.
Those who seek concealed-carry permits also must take an eight-hour course offered through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office.
Attack On Rights
While the Mark’s Guns and Ammo owner said traffic at his store has been busy recently, it’s difficult to pinpoint if that is due to the fallout from Newtown and the threat of increased regulation.
“It’s hard to really say with the time of year it is,” Stanley said. “This is our busy time anyway.”
He does see a common denominator among his customers: “I just think people are exercising our Second Amendment rights.” Stanley said public interest in buying guns generally has been on the increase since Obama was first elected in 2008, although “I don’t see as much of that as we used to.”
However, Stanley, who has been in business for 27 years, suspects a movement is under way by the federal government to erode Second Amendment and other rights.
“Our government is now socialistic,” he charged, offering a quote from Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
In response to the latest call for banning of certain weaponry, Stanley further referred to a situation in Australia that involved citizens being forced to give up more than 600,000 firearms to be destroyed by the government.
That recovery program cost $500 million and was followed by increases in homicides, assaults and armed robberies, which rose by 44 percent alone, according to information provided by Stanley.
“Criminals didn’t turn them in,” he added of the gun program in Australia.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.