Some of you have likely read the story we had in today’s Roanoke Times regarding Virginia setting a single-day record for firearms sales background checks on Saturday. If not, you can read the story HERE. (The online version includes fitting headline, unlike the paper version today which was “Giles gun store sees weekend sales boom.” That’s technically accurate, but the boom wasn’t just at Atlas Tactical, who, by the way, deserve credit for being willing to speak with our reporter.)
If you’ve been to a sporting goods, gun or outdoors retail store you probably didn’t need to see the figures. (Background checks up 30 percent over the same Saturday last year.) You’ve seen the crowds at the gun counters.
Christmas is always a busy season for firearms sales. But I don’t think anyone would say that this surge is due only to holiday-related shopping.
The horrific tragedy in Newtown has stirred up more talk about gun control than any incident in recent memory. While high-profile crimes often produce a spike in gun sales, this time it’s different.
Are buyers arming themselves for protection? Maybe a few.
But I think most of us can agree that the impetus is concern that stricter gun control is enivitable. There was some general concern after the 2008 election, and again after this November’s election, which led to big gun sales surges. But my sense is that people see Newtown as a game-changer. I think we’re seeing ample evidence of that as some previously staunch gun rights advocates are publicly saying, essentially, enough is enough. Previously the thinking was, “Stricter gun control may be coming.” Now the thinking might be, “Stricter gun control IS coming so I better buy this while I still can.”
I think most of us will also agree that this is a complicated issue that is further clouded because emotions play such a big part on both sides of the debate. The fact that there is a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and hyperbole out there doesn’t help. (For example, while there have been a lot of folks jumping on the NRA-bashwagon, I haven’t seen one reference to the number of lives likely saved by the NRA’s Eddie Eagle gun safety education program, which has reached 25 million kids.)
As another example of misunderstanding, someone I work with said on Monday that he thought that an “assault rifle” was fully automatic. Many people don’t realize that AR-style rifles are, in terms of basic functionality, pretty much the same as that Browning semi-automatic 30-06 your grandpa bought for deer hunting 45 years ago. That said we know there are some differences, such as the adjustability and flexibility with accessories. And there are those high-capacity magazines.
I am not getting on a soapbox here. What I would like to do is to bring up some of the questions being asked, and get some honest feedback. I do that here because Wild Life readers have proven themselves as being able to participate in rational, cordial debates about some controversial topics.
-If you are among those who have been crowding gun counters right now, what is your thinking? Is it because you feel stricter gun control is inevitable? If so, do you foresee a repeat of the Clinton-era “Assault Weapons Ban”? Or something different?
-Some of you own AR-style rifles. Can you expound on why a regular citizen has a need or even a want to own an AR-style rifle? Hunting? Target practice? Personal protection? Combination?
-High-capacity magazines are getting a lot of attention. For those of you who have ARs, do you have high-cap magazines? What are the advantages? Is a return to high-cap magazine restrictions such as what were included in the “Assault Weapons Ban” something you could live with?
-The NRA released a statement saying it will hold a press conference on Friday. Does anyone want to speculate about what it may announce? In its statement the NRA wrote: “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Does anyone think the NRA might be willing to consider supporting some compromises on gun control issues? Can the NRA compromise without losing credibility with its core members?
-I think most of us would agree that the availability of certain types of guns and/or magazines is not the only issue here. This is also a mental health issue, and an issue of a society where violence is not only tolerated, but also often glorified. Can stricter gun control even make a difference?
Again, this group has shown in the past the ability to take the high road on debates. We’ll leave the nasty name-calling to others. By being honest and cordial, we can help each other better understand this complicated and difficult subject, one made even more difficult by the heartache we are all feeling in the wake of the unfathomable crime in Newtown.