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The recent national debate on gun control has increased interest in guns and how to use them.
Eddie Deep, owner of Deep’s Guns and Archery, has seen the effect in his store.
And this isn’t the first time.
“The Clintons were pretty good salesmen, but they can't hold a candle to [President Barack] Obama,” Deep said. “He sells more guns for us than you'd imagine.”
Deep said he saw a boost in gun sales after Obama was elected in 2008. Most recently, Obama’s re-election and the increased calls for gun control measures in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting led to more interest in gun and ammunition purchases nationwide in recent months.
In some places, that created temporary shortages. Deep said other gun dealers purchased ammunition from his store to resell. He even received a call from a man in Florida who wasn’t able to find ammunition in his area, but had heard Deep’s had some.
“So he bought 1,000 rounds,” Deep said.
Besides the guns themselves, people have also expressed an interest in taking classes to receive a concealed carry permit. Deep, who teaches a concealed carry class with his wife, and Debbie Higdon, another local concealed carry instructor, both said they have heard from more people interested in taking the class in recent months.
Higdon grew up around guns on her family’s farm. She said there were always rifles around the house, and her brothers had handguns.
She didn’t really use handguns herself until she decided to become an instructor. That’s also when she got her own concealed carry permit for protection. Part of the reason she decided to become an instructor is because she believes more women should be familiar with how to handle firearms.
“You watch the news, and this is happening every day where people are getting robbed in Wal-mart parking lots and mall parking lots and at gas stations and things like that,” Higdon said. “I just think it’s important, not necessarily that everybody needs to carry one, but that everybody needs to know how to safely handle one.”
The class includes information on safety, marksmanship, criminal and civil liabilities, and a field test in which students demonstrate their ability to use the firearm.
“The class isn’t intended for anybody to fail. You never want to fail anybody. It’s more of a learning safety class,” Higdon said.
She added that completing the class does not guarantee the state police will issue a concealed carry permit, however. Certain issues, such as a felony conviction or pending cases involving domestic violence would be grounds to deny a permit. Higdon said people should know if they are eligible for a permit before they sign up for a class.
She also said the current political climate has affected interest in the classes. Some of her students are concerned the government will take away their right to carry a concealed weapon.
“I’ve had several say we want to get this before they change the laws and ban the guns,” she said.
Higdon doesn’t think handguns are the main focus in the recent debate.
“Are they going to take away the guns? I don’t think that’s the issue … the issue’s with the assault rifles,” she said.
Sen. Diane Feinstein of California did introduce legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, including the AR-15 (which is a semi-automatic, civilian version of the M-16 used by the U.S. military) among other weapons.
Not everyone considers the AR-15 an assault weapon, however.
“What she would call an assault weapon, I use for coyote hunting, bobcat hunting, and just plinkin' and shooting and enjoying myself,” Deep said.
National media reports suggest Feinstein’s proposal does not have enough support to pass, however.
Things have certainly changed since Deep, 74, bought his first gun when he was 12 years old.
“I went downtown to the hardware store and paid $12.95 for a single shot Remington rifle,” he said.
Today, he conducts a background check on every gun sale at his store, but it’s rare for the check to show a reason to deny a sale.
“We get delays quite often … but as far as a denial, we get five or 10 a year probably,” he said.
Obama and other politicians have called for the expansion of background checks to include gun show and private sales, and to include a mental health component as part of the check.
Deep is skeptical if that would make much of a difference.
“They do a thorough background check now, but how are you going to legislate mentality and ignorance?” he said. “That's what we got to contend with. You can have all the background checks in the world. That's not going to keep some idiot from going nuts.”