Gun Shop Owners Nationwide Weigh In On Impact Of Aurora Shooting
The issues will likely continue to play out on the campaign trail in what has become a tight race for the presidency.
High school students enrolled in USC's summer journalism program reached out to gun shop owners across the nation to get an idea of the state of the union, so to speak, when it comes to the right to bear arms.
Ade’s Gun Shop
Mike Hein, the 70-year-old co-owner of Ade’s Gun Shop in Orange, Calif., strongly opposes gun control. “I believe in the Second Amendment," Hein said, "which states that every person is entitled to have ownership of any gun they choose."
The alleged shooter in the Century 16 theater massacre, James Holmes, 23, was armed with three guns he had purchased legally off the Internet and had another hand gun in his car, police reports say. If gun control were less strict, Hein said, “someone in that theater would have had a gun on them that could have stopped this person from any further massacre.”
Hein objects to a proposed law that would restrict the bullet button on guns and make it harder to quickly detach a magazine. “California gun laws are overly restrictive and just don’t work,” he said. He doesn’t want to “use a tool to take out a magazine.”
Donovan’s Guns & Ammo LLC
New Orleans, La.
When it comes to gun control in this country, Charles Donovan stands firmly behind current gun laws and regulations. “We don’t need any more laws as it is now,” the Louisiana gun shop owner said. “All we need to do is just enforce our current gun laws.”
Even after the recent shooting in Aurora, Colo., which left 12 dead and 58 injured, Donovan isn’t easily convinced. “What if someone walks into a theater with a bat and beats somebody to death with it?" he said. "Are you gonna ban bats? It doesn’t make sense.”
When asked about policies at his store, Donovan said he and his employees run background checks before selling firearms to anyone. “Clearly we don’t want any criminals or mentally unstable persons in possession of a firearm.”
Shooting sprees like the one in Colorado can’t be predicted, Donovan said, urging people not to rush to any conclusions about existing regulations. “The shooting in Colorado was a sad event,” said Donovan. “But this is because we aren’t enforcing our current gun laws. It doesn’t mean we need new and stricter gun laws. It’d be a waste of time.”
Illinois Gun Works
Elmwood Park, Ill.
Don Mastrianni, the 56-year-old owner of Illinois Gun Works in Elmwood Park, isn’t happy with Illinois’ current gun laws.
“I really don’t feel that most gun regulations have been effective,” Mastrianni said. “The screening process that happens before I even sell someone a gun just isn’t long enough to ensure someone’s not nuts.”
He fully supports the provision that gives him the right to refuse to sell someone a gun.
“I can’t tell you how many people I see come in here who can’t even understand what the words mean in the contract they have to sign before buying a gun,” Mastrianni said. “If they can’t even understand the contract, why would I trust them with a deadly gun?”
To combat ignorance about firearms, state law mandates that gun shops must conduct a series of five-hour informational classes for gun-permit applicants
The classes do not fully address the problem, he said.
“There’s really no effective, informative classes to teach people about gun safety,” Mastrianni said. “As crazy as it might sound, people never understand the full impact and dangerous effects a gun can have until they have already bought it.”
What’s needed, he said, is a standardized gun policy throughout the country.
“If there was only one set of laws, then the entire country would be on the same page about specific gun regulations,” Mastrianni said. “I’m sick of having to explain to some customers why certain laws in other states don’t apply in mine.”
As for the presidential campaign, Mastrianni said that the candidates’ promises and public statements about gun control are fruitless and that neither man can solve the issue.
“You could take every gun out of the world, and people would still find a way to kill each other,” Mastrianni said. “How do you legislate against stupidity and psychosis?”
Metro Shooting Supplies
For John Stephenson, a 54-year-old employee at Metro Shooting Supplies in Bridgeton, Mo., the issues raised by the Aurora theater shooting have very little to do with gun control. “The gun laws are already pretty strict,” he said. “This isn’t a gun control issue. It’s a person issue. It’s an individual that went crazy.”
Missouri gun laws are “overall very good,” Stephenson said. “The biggest issue we have is we don’t enforce the laws that are in the books right now.”
Stephenson said gun laws are not to blame for the Aurora shooting. “No one’s responsible for what happened except that guy there,” he said. “People should’ve recognized that this guy was taking a turn for the worse and should’ve gotten him some kind of help. That’s what the biggest thing is."
Ben Giese, an employee at Milwaukee’s Shooters Shop, said current gun regulations in Wisconsin are effective.
“Different laws wouldn’t have stopped the shooting, and it would have happened regardless of what weapon was used. If it wasn’t a gun, it would have been a bomb or some other kind of weapon,” Giese said.
If someone wanted a gun for harmful purposes, he would get it, Giese said. The Colorado shooter broke several laws that night, and would have done so with or without a gun.
“The laws are for those who follow them, not for the criminals," Giese said. "New changes and additions to laws aren’t made to stop criminals, because criminals wouldn’t follow them in the first place.”
As for Wisconsin’s laws, “there are a few things I would like to have tweaked, but I would have to look into it more."
He is content with Wisconsin’s current regulations, especially with pre-sale steps that must be followed.
“There are already extensive checks done before someone can buy a gun, and 16 databases we look through before someone gets approved,” Giese said. “Also, the FBI gets called when a check is done. There’s not much more that you could do.”
Like thousands of others, he was left shocked by the tragic Colorado theater shooting. The effects have rippled throughout Wisconsin, but fortunately, have not negatively hit his business.
What he can see potentially affecting Shooters Shop would be new laws put in place by either of the presidential candidates. Besides President Barack Obama’s “fiscal irresponsibility” and stance on the Second Amendment, Giese prefers Romney’s position on gun laws.
“The presidential candidates' positions on gun control have considerably affected who I will vote for,” he said. “I didn’t vote for Obama the first time and I won’t again for a variety of reasons, one being that I completely disagree with his ideas about gun control, especially after the shooting.”
Giese said that although what happened in Aurora was upsetting, it should not affect the laws in Wisconsin, something Obama should understand.
Gun Runners Tactical
William Mattox, owner of Gun Runners Tactical in Duarte, Calif., is pondering the future of gun laws and how they might affect his store.
“The thing I keep thinking is that unfortunately, [the Aurora shooting] is now going to be used to push for more gun restrictions and control,” said Mattox. “The problem with all restrictions is that they hurt the people that are not the problem.”
He does not feel guns are responsible for the violence, but blames the people themselves instead.
“Why do I get punished for what some froot loop does? When some nut case goes loose, I go punished?" he said. "There are no simple answers."
Mattox explained that for gun stores in California, there is a 5150 (psychiatric hold) law that would restrict people of mental illness to buy guns. But, he said, there's no such law in Arizona, meaning the mentally unstable can more easily get their hands on a gun.
“I think that the gun is an inanimate object—just like a car or typewriter. All can be abused,” Mattox said.
In regards to the upcoming elections, Mattox said he supports Mitt Romney because of his stance on gun control.
“I am a single-issue voter and I’m forced to support Romney. I have to vote pro-gun because that’s my livelihood and unfortunately, the Democrats have a poor record when it comes to Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Mattox said that politicians trying to restrict guns are just doing it for the sake of reelection, so they can “look good,” but really all it does is hurt everyone else without solving society’s true problems.
“How do you stop crazies from doing crazy things?” Mattox said. “There are just more questions to be unanswered. What’s the answer? I don’t have it.”
Mattox sighed. “Do you?”
Ade’s Gun Shop
Orange County, Calif.
Gun sales are up at Ade’s Gun Shop in Orange County, in part because customers worry that gun laws may become more restrictive in the aftermath of the killings in Aurora, Colo.
“Sales have picked up dramatically since this senseless act has happened in Aurora,” co-owner Emily Adkinson said. “Normally in the gun world the summers are pretty quiet. All of a sudden guns are flying off the shelf, so I think people are really getting scared again.”
Making it harder to buy a gun won’t prevent violence, she said.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people and if anything happens [where there is stricter gun control] we’re going to have huge black market gun sales," she said. And now, after the Aurora incident, gun control has become a major issue in the campaign.
President Barack Obama’s recent statements about the need for tighter controls make him “the best gun salesman in the world,” Adkinson said. Whenever the president talks about gun control, she said, people come rushing into her store.
“People are saying if we don’t get one now, we’re never gonna get one."
Dury’s Gun Shop
San Antonio, Texas
Gun shop owner John Dury relishes the moments he spends with his kids out in the wilderness hunting.
Dury, owner of Dury’s Gun Shop in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the Internet’s largest sellers of guns. Dury said guns play an integral role in American society, from hunting and national security to quality family time.
Americans already are saddled with so many gun laws, he said, and adding more would be equivalent to disarming citizens.
People should realize that the alleged killer, James Holmes, had a sick mind and could have killed with gas, bombs, or guns, Dury said. “There’s a million things he could have done. The means by which he kills with is irrelevant.”
Dury cherishes the American freedom to bear arms and pointed out the laws in other countries. “Look at what happened when Australia took away guns from citizens. There was a 44 percent crime rate increase.” He also said the extreme violence and chaos in Mexico correlates to the country having “the strictest gun laws in the Western Hemisphere.”
“You can’t fix a crazy mind, because they don’t pay attention anyways," Dury said. "I wish people would take a step back and look at the big picture and realize you can’t make laws to fix crazy people. Why should I be punished for what some one crazy did out there?”
Joe Deaser, owner of Just Guns in Sacramento, Calif., said the Second Amendment is a constitutional right for every American. Deaser hunts, sport shoots and definitely sleeps better knowing he can protect himself with a gun at hand.
“Recently I was put in the position where I had to pull a gun on someone who was breaking into my house," Deaser said. "I had two felons arrested that day. One of them had a gun, acquired unlawfully.”
Deaser said if he hadn't had his gun, the attempted burglars would probably have shot him.
The Second Amendment is an important part of the American institution, Deaser said. “Why should some anti-gun nut be able to take that from us?”
With the upcoming presidential election, both the candidates have their own take on the current gun laws. “I think it will affect the election," Deaser said. "We are in a weird transitional period with gun laws. Obama is loosely threatening to take away the Second Amendment. We have 300 million guns in this country—people are not going to be happy if that happens."
Though Deaser said the recent Colorado shootings might have been prevented, the incident "was not a gun problem. It was a people problem. The gun only did what it was told to do by the idiot who was holding it.”
Deaser compared the theater shooting to one carried out by Timothy Mcvey, where he drove a truck full of explosives into an Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995. “In the case of the Aurora shootings," Deaser said, "if it was not a gun, Holmes would have found another way to do it. The gun just happened to be the easiest vehicle at his disposal at that time. More people die from car crashes on our interstate than from gun shootings. Does that mean we abolish we cars ?”
Deaser said the people who are opposed to guns are very hard to appease because they don't understand the weapons or are afraid of them—or both. “I think we have bigger problems to face than guns." he said. "It is a scary proposition to be scared of something you don't understand. The biggest reason we have never had a real attack from any foreign country is because most countries know that we have 300 million Americans, most of whom are armed.”
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the Aurora shooting here.