Gun control: Delicate balance


ADAMS — In the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, many politicians have shown support for President Barack Obama’s call for more stringent gun control laws, including limiting the number of rounds in each magazine and how many weapons can be bought at one time.

But while the Senate Judiciary Committee debates tougher firearm regulations in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., local gun shop owners are in a state of supply-anddemand limbo. Tom Decker, owner of Pete’s Gun Shop in Adams, has spent his entire life around firearms — buying, selling and collecting them. It’s a tradition passed down to him by his father, Pete Decker, who started the business, which now includes Tom’s two sons.

Decker says that while he favors stricter background checks, he can’t support the type of legislation suggested by the Obama administration or Gov. Deval Patrick, which could limit the purchase and sale of currently legal firearms and ammunition.

“None of these laws would have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” Decker said. “Every attempt at further regulation is just another step down the slippery slope.”

If further federal limitation on ammunition purchases or magazine size is passed, or if a specific weapons ban is enacted, the financial effect may be “negligible,” Decker said. But any changes at the state level could have “drastic” impacts because weapons manufacturers simply wouldn’t make certain models in order to adhere to state regulations, he said.

At the center of the proposed legislation is the AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle that Decker says is being mislabeled as an assault rifle. Decker said an assault weapon must have the ability to switch from semiautomatic firing — one shot per trigger pull — to fully automatic, something the AR-15 hunting rifle doesn’t have.

“Just because it looks like an assault rifle, doesn’t mean it is one,” he said.

The AR-15 and guns like it that lack fully automatic capabilities are called “modern sporting rifles,” or MSRs in the gun industry, a term they hope will combat the assault rifle stigma associated with the weapon, Decker said.

While scarcity may be part of an increase in gun sales, there seems to be a more psychological drive to the “gun frenzy,” as sales have reached record highs, he said.

“People are afraid,” Decker said. “They’re afraid if they don’t buy it now, they’ll never be able to do it again.”

In 2011, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, reported more than 16.4 million background checks of people wanting to buy a gun in the United States. Last year that number rose to nearly 19.6 million. and since the Sandy Hook tragedy, 4.8 million background checks have been done. That number could be much higher, but gun manufacturers can’t build the weapons fast enough to keep up with the demand, Decker said.

“All these new laws will do is just make it more difficult for law-abiding gun owners,” he said. “If we make the laws we already have more painful to those committing crimes, then perhaps they may think twice about committing another.”

Several other local gun shop owners either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached for this article.

Gun facts ...

Numbers: There are an estimated 300 million legally owned guns in the United States. The U.S. easily has the most guns per resident in the world — 70 percent more than the second-highest country, Yemen. Stocks: Manufacturer Smith & Wesson’s stock price rose 20 percent in 2012. Shares of manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. jumped by 55 percent.

Fear: Some 4.3 million people watched the first episode of “Doomsday Preppers” on the National Geographic Channel in February of last year. The show is about Americans who are preparing for doomsday. The first episode was titled: “Bullets, Lots of Bullets.”

Source: MSN Money

To reach Josh Stilts:, or (413) 496-6243. On Twitter: @JoshStilts


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