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Prospect of tighter gun control makes sales soar
'Everything' selling quickly, one shop owner says
Kimberly Sexton of Moneta holds her 4-month-old son Benjamin as she looks over one of two handguns she purchased at Town Gun in Collinsville. Helping her with the sale is Mark Tosh, president of Town Gun. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, December 20, 2012
By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Mark Tosh is thankful for the surge in business at Town Gun Shop in the past week. However, he is dubious of its source.
“I like to sell product, but I don’t like to sell product over an event,” Tosh, president of Town Gun in Collinsville, said Wednesday.
The shop is in the midst of a rush of business its owner said he has never seen, and he attributes it to last week’s mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“I’ve been open 29 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “When the crime bill (Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act) went into effect in ’94, when Obama got (elected president) — I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Tosh said he believes many consumers are afraid gun control laws governing purchases are about to become more restrictive, so they are buying firearms now as a result. “They’re buying handguns to ARs (assault rifles) to shotguns,” he said. “Everything.”
Also in demand are high-volume magazines and weapons such as handguns for first-time owners who want them for self-defense, he said.
Due to the massive volume of business, Tosh said, his greater problem is keeping stock on the shelves to meet demand. “If we don’t already have it in stock, you can’t get it,” he said.
Some customers have traveled more than two hours to make purchases, he noted. Others have called seeking items that already have sold out or have told him other dealers are raising their prices due to increased demand.
“If you gouge your customers, what kind of person are you?” Tosh asked.
With President Barack Obama and other federal representatives calling for tighter gun laws, Tosh said he believes some consumers who might have been on the fence about purchasing a weapon before “know the time is now” to get one.
Obama told The Associated Press on Wednesday he would send Congress proposals in January for tightening gun laws. He also pressed lawmakers to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004. He also said he would seek tougher background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” Obama said. “The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence.”
Though Black Friday has become Tosh’s biggest sales day, he said this week’s rush has left that day “light years behind.” He said he also saw big sales on the heels of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections in which Obama won his first and second terms.
“We thought we would never see anything the likes of that,” he said. “The last three days have been beyond anything I’ve ever seen.”
Tosh, whose daughter attends Bassett High School, also said “it’s a tragedy why they’re buying. I don’t want an event like that to move product.”
At Southern Guns in Bassett, however, store manager Erin Haskins said Wednesday that while business has been steady, it hasn’t been out of the ordinary.
“We’ve been swamped for the past two weeks,” Haskins said. “Probably 90 percent of our sales have been (to) last-minute shoppers.”
Haskins also said that the most popular items have been hunting rifles — which, she said, is normal since Christmas falls during deer season.
Though Haskins said she and others at her store expected a spike in sales after Obama was re-elected, business was “dead” the week after the election. With the economy being weak, she said she expected sales to remain slow.
“I was really pleased to see the traffic we’ve gotten,” she said.
Though many federal legislators have cautioned against speaking out on the gun control issue too quickly after the Newtown slayings, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, long a moderate on the issue, called for tighter restrictions Monday, saying, “I think most of us realize that there are ways to get to rational gun control.”
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, said the right to keep and bear arms outlined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution “is not the reason that this horrific and senseless tragedy occurred.” But he also called for further discussion of gun laws.
“In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, we must take a comprehensive look at finding ways to prevent such tragedies,” Hurt said in a statement issued Wednesday, “including examining measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said that if tougher laws are enacted, “sometimes the fix doesn’t cure the problem.” He also noted that Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown, “basically stole (the weapons) from his mother. He broke the law to some degree to get them from the start,” Marshall said.
Despite all the talk locally, Marshall said the gun control issue ultimately will lie with the federal government, both in terms of legislation and enforcement.
“If we pass something (in Virginia), it doesn’t mean that person can’t go across the (state) line” to get a weapon, he noted.
On Wednesday, state Del. Joseph Morrissey said he planned to introduce a bill to the General Assembly to ban the sale of both assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Though the federal ban expired in 2004, several states have laws against them on the books.
Both Marshall and Tosh noted other crimes in schools that didn’t involve guns. Marshall cited the stabbings of 22 Chinese school children Friday by a mentally ill man. Tosh mentioned the 1927 bombing of a school in Bath Township, Mich., which left 45 people, 38 of them children, dead.
“It doesn’t mean a madman has to use a gun. They’ll use any means they can,” Tosh said.