A man buys a Bushmaster rifle, like the one used in the Newtown, Conn., massacre, on Wednesday at Davis Shooting Sports in Goshen, where customers flocked to make gun purchases. A salesperson told a caller that the shop had run out of the Bushmaster. (Photo by Joshua Rosenau)
Several cars parked outside Davis Shooting Sports in Goshen, where customers flocked to make gun purchases following a the fatal shooting of 20 children in Newtown, Conn. (Photo by Joshua Rosenau)
This billboard on Route 6 in Milford, Pa., advertises the Gold-n-Guns shop with the motto: "Look good while you're killing!" (Photo by Pamela Chergotis)
GOSHEN — As schools and police forces react to the mass shooting of elementary school students in Newtown, Conn., many gun enthusiasts are reacting too.
At Davis Shooting Sports, a combination gun store and shooting range in Goshen, N.Y., customers cued up beside racks of long guns and glass display cases holding hand guns and ammunition as they waited to have their purchases processed five days after the massacre.
Davis Shooting Sports is listed as a dealer of Bushmaster guns on the company's Web site. One customer on Wednesday was seen buying a gun similar to the Bushmaster assault-style rifle model used by Newtown shooter Adam Lanza.
A store employee declined permission to interview customers in the store, saying he distrusted journalists.
“We all pretty much agreed not to speak to the press,” the employee said. “In the past, they've not been friendly to gun people.”
Salesmen answering phones at the shop said that they were swamped with customers.
“The sales have been very responsive,” the employee said.
At Gold-n-Guns in Milford, Pa., shop owner Stephanie Connelly said that in the last two weeks, she has sold more assault-style rifles than in the previous two years.
Buyers are rushing to by models like the AK-47 and the AR-15. As a result, wholesale prices are going up as the weapons' manufacturers gauge demand, she said.
“Seriously, this is pathetic,” she said. “You would think as a gun shop owner I'd be thrilled. No. It's sad. It's sad because there is no thought process behind anything that's being done.”
Shop owners: Gun control plan is backfiring
Connelly said heated rhetoric about gun control has stoked the fears of gun enthusiasts. They're anxious that this time might be the last time they can buy the gun they want — not necessarily the gun they are prepared to use, she said.
“Do I think there's people buying an AR-15 or an AK-47 that really have no clue how to use it the damn thing?” she said. “ Yeah, I do.”
Connelly said President Obama should soften his tone because the fear that guns may vanish are driving people to buy them.
“Every gun dealer across the country should make Obama the Employee of the Month,” she said. “He's the one who brought this upon himself. And because of him, gun sales are through the roof.”
At another Bushmaster dealer, Master Class Shooters Supply in Monroe, a man behind the counter declined to comment on whether business was up or down following the shooting.
“The only thing I got is: Why don't they go after, in the schools, their little psychiatrists and not have anything to do with these kids?” he said. “Put them up front, and get them out of the way first before anything like this happens.”
The man at Master Class also declined to be identified.
Hunter and gun rights proponent Mark Dorfman of the Monroe-Chester Sportsmen Club said reactions to mass shootings, including the most recent spree, follow a predicable formula.
“Every time something like this happens, people blame the implements, the guns, rather than the individual,” he said. “We've gone through this time and time again. It's a tragedy. You're talking about children that have their whole life in front of them. It's no different than when anytime any life is lost.”
Efforts to curb the availability, power and the capacity of guns after the shooting are irrational, because those who want to do harm will always succeed at finding a way to do so, even without a firearm, Dorfman said.
“You're never going to prevent it. You just have to live with it,” he said. “If someone wants to create a problem, it doesn't matter what they have in their hands, or the capacity, or the caliber.”
To protect people from violent gun crimes, Dorfman said more should be done to intervene in the lives of people with mental health problems. But he said there's a limit to how much should be spent on such an effort.
“As far as people who have a tendency to have a mental health problem, deal with that,” he said. “Recognize what's going on with you society and don't keep a political agenda handy. You've got people out there who need help, and there's always a concern about the dollars thrown at a problem, rather than dealing with the social issue itself.”
He also advocated for enhanced security at schools.
“Yes, I think there should be more security as far as schools are concerned, but are people going to want to pay for the security? That's always a question.
A gun dealer against assault weapons
Not all gun dealers reacted the same.
Arnold Briganti, a gunsmith working in Highland Mills for the last 40 years, said he supports a ban on assault weapons and high-power, high-speed, high-capacity rifles like the Bushmaster.
“I am against, 100 percent, civilians being able to have assault weapons,” he said. “To me they are not a sporting firearm. To me they are strictly for wars, and I can't see anyone having one.”
Briganti restores guns by bluing the steel, a process that restores the smooth, dark finish of well-worn guns. He said that he sees no good reason why anyone should need to have a magazine that can carry 30 rounds.
“I don't care for them at all,” he said. “I wouldn't give you a dollar them. A lot of guys are spending some pretty big bucks on these things. I wouldn't give you a nickel for one. As far as I'm concerned, guns are strictly for sport. Shooting targets — that's all right too, but I cannot see the reason for these banana clips.”