News Column

Gun Sales Skyrocket in Santa Fe in Wake of Sandy Hook Shooting

Dec 21, 2012

Julie Ann Grimm

Gun dealers in Santa Fe report they are sold out of large-caliber, semi-automatic rifles and accessories in the wake of threats that the federal government will tighten laws on the weapons and their magazines.

While Christmas is always a busy time at places like Tina's Range Gear, owner Tina Buchen said customers at the Airport Road store have bought up her entire supply of semi-automatic guns.

"I'm looking at my shelf now," she said. "I've got a couple .22s, but that's it."

The store had two military-style AR-15 rifles in stock on Saturday, and both sold that day -- the day after a gunman killed 26 people at a Connecticut school and cries for gun-law reform rose to a fever pitch. Customers were also streaming into the doors of The Outdoorsman, in the DeVargas Center.

"I didn't have very many AR's in stock to begin with," Buchen said, "but if I had a nickel for every call I've had for one today, I'd be rich."

Buchen said she's not sure if or when she will be able to restock her standard supply of semi-automatics, especially given that the same scenario is playing out all over the nation.

"I know I won't be able to get them. And I know the prices are going to skyrocket too," she said. "That's what everybody is speculating on, that we won't ever be able to get them again."

Although she acknowledged Santa Fe is "not a gun-friendly town," she said she hopes the federal government considers more than a singular gun-control response to mass shootings.

"I think the federal government really needs to look into more about mental-health issues. Making new laws is not going to stop criminals from being criminals. It's not going to stop crazy people from being crazy," she said.

Bill Roney, owner of The Outsdoorsman, has been a gun dealer in Santa Fe for more than 40 years. He said business had definitely picked up at the store in the last week, which reflects the concern "about the direction of our society and our government," he said.

Anti-gun sentiment is a knee-jerk reaction to a terrible tragedy, he added.

"It's a response to a symptom rather than a causation, and I think that is what concerns a lot of our customers," Roney said, noting that addressing the glorification of violence in film and video games and the breakdown of family structure seems to be overlooked. "Let's focus our attention on sympathy and compassion and on other causative factors that we never talk about."

Meanwhile, City Councilor Patti Bushee said this week that she wants Santa Fe's local government to do what it can to ban what she called "assault weapons and magazines with excessive capacity." Steven Farber, a member of the Charter Review Commission appointed by Bushee, said he wanted the group to explore amending the city charter to address prohibition on certain weapons.

Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger said Thursday that she'd like the city to pass a resolution in support of tougher federal laws and also is considering a local "assault-weapons buyback." Wurzburger said she also plans to propose public meetings to gather ideas from the public on the issue.

Mayor David Coss signed a letter to the president this week along with hundreds of other mayors who are seeking tougher gun laws.

While federal rules allow states to make some rules about gun control, the state Constitution says cities can't regulate "the right to keep and bear arms." Even so, city Attorney Geno Zamora said late Thursday that his office is researching what kind of gun-control polices the city could legally adopt.

City resident Thomas Iddings, a Marine Corps veteran, gunsmith and salesman who is waiting for the birth of his first child, said he believes the furor about changing gun laws is coming mostly from policymakers who don't know enough about weapons to write sensible legislation.

"I feel the same as anybody does, heartbroken over what happened," he said, "but people don't think rationally."

Rather than looking at a ban on particular weapons or magazines, Iddings said imposing other rules would have more tangible results.

"Change isn't a bad thing," he said, "it just depends on how they change them."

For example, online sales and gun shows are two ways people can buy weapons without requisite background checks at dealers -- practices he says should go away. Another effective law would require gun owners to keep weapons locked. The Connecticut shooter, he said, accessed guns that weren't properly stored.

Officials in states across the nation have reported a run on weapons, including in Virginia, where officials said last weekend that the number of background checks increased 42 percent over the the number for the same day in 2011. In Nevada, officials also reported a record number of background checks.

New Mexico is one of 35 states whose gun dealers submit records checks directly to the FBI, said Regina Chacon, director of the state Department of Public Safety's Law Enforcement Records Bureau. That means the state doesn't keep records on the number of National Instant Check System background checks that are performed. However, Chacon said her bureau gets between 40 and 50 calls a week from the FBI to answer questions about NICS records the federal agency has reviewed.

"We received about the same amount of calls every week," she said. "We have not seen a spike from last week to this week."

Source: (c)2012 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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