With the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary fresh in everyone’s mind, there have been calls from politicians across the country to impose stricter gun control or even to abolish the Second Amendment.
President Barack Obama has said he favors stronger background checks, a meaningful ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, although he’s unsure such legislation would pass in the House of Representatives.
Vice President Joe Biden has offered that Obama could do it via Executive Order if Congress fails to act.
In California, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has promised to introduce a bill this month to place a ban on assault weapons. She said the bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, and possession of assault weapons as well as clips that hold more than 10 bullets.
Meanwhile some California legislators have called for the regulation of all ammunition sales as well as background checks and annual permits for gun owners despite the fact that the state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and in 2010 also had the highest number of firearm related murders in the country.
According to FBI statistics, in 2011 there were a total of 12,664 murders nationwide, 8,583 of which were committed with a firearm. In that same year, firearms were also used in 41.4 percent of robberies, and 20.6 percent of aggravated assaults.
Gun sales up
All this heated rhetoric has resulted in a huge surge in gun sales throughout the country and El Dorado County is no exception.
According to Gail Anderson, co-owner at Newtown Firearms, gun sales are up by 75 percent, with most of their sales being handguns and assault rifles.
“We’re sold out on just about everything we’ve got,” she said. “Ammo prices are going up and people are buying what they can because they are concerned about the government and about protecting themselves.”
Anderson said many are also buying a gun for home defense because of rising crime rates. Others are buying a gun and getting a carry and conceal permit for personal defense.
“Gang bangers will always be able to get guns,” she said. “(Restricting gun ownership) only hurts the legal gun owners.”
Don Rood, the owner of Mosquito Creek Outfitters, has also seen a huge surge in sales since President Obama’s speech on banning semi-automatic guns.
“Nobody in California has any inventory in the way of handguns or assault rifles,” he said. “We had one assault rifle come in one week and sold it the same afternoon.”
He noted that last Thursday, 2,319 guns were sold in California between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. alone.
Rood noted all kinds of people are buying guns these days. ”As soon as Obama said we’re going to ban them, there was a run on guns. Women have been coming in here and buying two at a time — handguns and rifles.
“The government wants to take guns out of the hands of responsible hands leaving people unprotected and at the mercy of criminals.”
Rood believes that politicians are exploiting the massacre at Sandy Hook to further restrict gun rights. “What’s not reported,” he said, “is how often guns prevent crimes.”
He cited the story of a 75-year-old grandmother who was attending church when a man came in and started shooting. “She pulled out her .357 magnum and popped him,” he said.
Rood noted that El Dorado County is one of the most well armed communities.
“Having a gun is about not being a victim, not being afraid. Because the bad guys are always going to have the guns. I’m hoping instead of an all out ban they adopt California’s laws, which are the strictest in the nation.”
NRA membership up
All the debate about gun rights has aroused the concern of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Chuck Holland, who is the chairman of the Local Friends of the National Rifle Association, noted that, “nobody ever wants to see anything like that happen (at Sandy Hook) … but every time there is an incident, there is chatter about gun control, gun control, gun control.”
He said the current debate is helping to drive the sale of guns. “Right now Dianne Feinstein should get the salesman of the year award for gun sales and ammunition sales,” he said.
The gun debate is also pushing NRA membership. Holland said he read that the NRA may be registering up to 8,000 new members a day because of what’s happening in the country.
Holland doesn’t believe that firearms are the issue. Rather he thinks more attention should be paid by parents to the violent video games and TV programs their children are exposed to. He also thinks implementing an InstaCheck system for those buying guns and keeping a database on those with mental issues would help keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
Currently he estimates that between 50 and 60 percent of Americans own a gun and there are 100 to 200 million guns in private hands.
“In this county we’re very fortunate that our sheriff and district attorney are both pro-Second Amendment and pro-firearms education,” Holland said.
“But if the current administration had their way, they would take every gun and destroy it, but I’m pretty sure there’s enough of us in this country that we would put some resistance up.”