Sale of firearms at local stores up

Stores see big demand for assault weapons

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Photos by Christie Campbell / Observer-Reporter
Few guns remained on a wall inside Ace Sporting Goods Wednesday. The empty spaces mark where assault rifles were displayed. Order a Print
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Christie Campbell / Observer-Reporter
John Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Sporting Goods in Eighty Four, fills out paperwork for a firearms sale Wednesday. Order a Print
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Vehicles jam into the parking lot of Ace Sporting Goods on Route 19 Wednesday. A sign on the store’s front door warned customers not to park along the berm of the road.

Business was brisk at area sporting goods stores this week as talk of possible stricter gun laws and Christmas gift giving combined to drive up sales.

Although the holiday season is often a busy one for firearm purchases, firearms dealers have seen a marked increase, especially in assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama was asking Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban, consider limiting high-capacity magazines and pass legislation to close loopholes that bypass background checks in the wake of last Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“Business has picked up,” was all Ben Romanoff at Ace Sporting Goods Store in South Strabane Township, had time to say Wednesday as he hurried to wait on customers while the store’s telephone rang constantly. On Thursday, a reporter could get only a busy signal when calling the store.

A wall where assault rifles had been on display was nearly empty. They had all sold within the past week and a half, Romanoff said.

On Brownlee Road in Eighty Four, it was less crowded at Johnson’s Sporting Goods, but owners John and Mary Anna Johnson had sold all but one assault rifle and had to tell customers wanting high-capacity ammunition clips that they were out.

Talk of gun control after shootings like the one in Newtown “just causes people to stockpile ammo,” Mr. Johnson said.

Johnson has seen a shift in the demographics of people buying firearms in the 22 years he has owned his business. He doesn’t sell as many hunting rifles as he once did and believes the next generation is not as interested in hunting.

“But they like guns. And that’s good for us because they accessorize,” he said.

Zombie movies and video combat games have helped popularize gun ownership among the younger generation.

As he talked, a young woman with a baby asleep in a carrier entered the store and asked if any M400 assault rifles were still available.

“Politicians don’t understand that American people want their guns,” Johnson said. He would support a ban if he thought it would do any good but believes it attacks “the wrong end of the problem.”

About the only thing slowing down sales Wednesday were background checks through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System in Harrisburg. The volume was so high that the telephone remained busy much of the day.

A woman at the Washington County sheriff’s office, where gun owners renew or apply for gun permits, said PICS also was slowing down their processing. Most permits are approved while people wait, but the office clerks had to send many of them by mail. She could not say how many permits had been processed since the mass shooting.


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