News Column

Gun Enthusiasts Target Both Sides of Gun-control Proposals

Jan 15 2013 10:00PM

Tom Infield

Gun control

-Classic Pistol, a gun shop and shooting range packed with customers at lunch hour Tuesday, sits at the rear of a cinder-block office-industrial park in Southampton, Bucks County.

Inside the barred-glass door, a day before President Obama's planned announcement of gun-control measures, suburbanites stood hip to hip at counters, looking over handguns dangling price tags for hundreds of dollars apiece.

Propped along the wall were racks of rifles, including the type of AR-15 assault weapon carried into the Sandy Hook Elementary School last month by the Newtown, Conn., shooter.

From the target range in back came muffled pops of gunfire.

"You're going to find this is not a liberal establishment," owner Bob Kostaras warned a reporter who had dropped by to chat with gun enthusiasts. "I don't think most of my customers voted for Obama."

Perhaps not. But there was a range of opinion.

"Right now, we have enough gun law; we just don't have the manpower to enforce it," said Lee Siufung, 46, a building-systems engineer wearing a blue sweatshirt and a cap bearing the logo of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Siufung, born in China, said he appreciated the freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights -- speech, religion, and the right to bear arms included.

"In China, before 1949, every citizen was allowed to have a gun," he said. "But after 1949, the communists took over. They basically banned guns. So only the communist government have guns."

Siufung said he drove to Classic Pistol a couple of times a month from his home in Chester County.

This day, he had five guns in the trunk. He said he was licensed to carry a concealed handgun and did so frequently.

Obama is likely to propose a renewal of the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, as well as restrictions on large ammunition clips. Siufung said that he could not support either proposal, but that he backed another likely Obama proposal -- universal background checks on purchasers of firearms.

Kathleen Ritz, 52, of Bucks County, who for many years worked in telephone sales, said her husband introduced her to target shooting years ago when they were dating.

"We come every Tuesday," she said. "And we just had our children here while they were home for Christmas. We have a family membership.

"It's a good sport -- competitive, disciplined, and you can see yourself improving every week."

She said she was not opposed to certain new gun controls.

"I'm OK with a ban on assault rifles. There is no reason for somebody to have that, there really isn't. I am for the smaller clip. Those aren't going to prevent somebody from enjoying target shooting or hunting for sport."

Ritz, wearing a hooded sweater bedecked with a scarf, emphasized, "We are NRA members. We believe in the Second Amendment. It was there for a reason. It should still be there. . . . But we want sensible application of the laws when it comes to guns."

Kostaras, who has owned the shooting range for four years, is pretty much an absolutist when it comes to any new gun-control measures.

"There are 22,000 laws in place," he said. "We need to enforce the laws that are on the books."

He said the Second Amendment wasn't written for hunters, it wasn't written for target shooters, it wasn't even written for people to defend themselves in their homes.

"It was for the civilian population to effectively defend themselves from a government that is out of control," he said. "That's why it was written by our founding fathers."

He called the Newtown shootings a tragedy -- evidence of the need for greater diligence in keeping firearms out of the hands of people who may be mentally ill. He favors more information on mental illness.

Kostaras said he would not sell a gun to someone who struck him as possibly disturbed. "They say, 'You have to.' I say, 'No, I don't.' " He recalled turning down a frail, elderly customer he suspected wanted a gun to kill himself.

With the Obama announcement pending, Kostaras was so busy Tuesday that he hardly had time to talk.

"Business is up," he said, "dramatically."

Source: (c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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