Gun enthusiasts Kyle Smith of Bleckley County, Dennis Cupp of Warner Robins, JR Greene of Bonaire and gun shop employee Scott Branco talk about proposed changes to assault weapons regulations Wednesday at Chucks Gun and Pawn Shop in Warner Robins.
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Middle Georgia gun shop owners and customers weighed in Wednesday on President Barack Obamas proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and step up background checks of gun buyers.
Many were critical of the proposal, but others said they dont have a problem with the presidents ideas on curbing gun violence.
Clayton Williams, manager of Chucks Gun & Pawn Shop in Warner Robins, ignored his ringing phone as he talked about gun-control proposals in his office Wednesday.
My phone just rings off the hook, he said. Everybody is calling around and checking on this stuff thats already hard to get but could go away if the gun ban goes into effect.
His inventory of assault rifles is just about depleted, with only a few still hanging on a wall thats normally covered with them. Guns have been flying off the shelves since Obama first announced his intentions to implement gun control measures in December, following the fatal shootings of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Williams, however, isnt happy about the proposals even though it has been good for business in recent weeks.
The business is nice, but it is not how you want to have it, he said. It would be good short term, but you dont know whats going to happen long term. ...The elementary school shooting was terrible, I mean god-awful, Williams said. I just hate it that the president seems to be using that to push forward what hes trying to get through in Congress.
Chris Kalejta and Reed Crumley come to his shop about once a week to check out the inventory. Both own assault rifles. Crumley bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle about two weeks before the Newtown shooting for $1,500. Today the same gun costs about $3,000, he said.
Neither think the presidents proposals would prevent violence.
I think they should enforce the laws on the books rather than come up with new laws, Kalejta said.
Gun sales -- and opinions -- also were going strong at Centerville Gun & Pawn Shop after the proposals were announced.
Weve been having record sales, said store manager Jared Morrison. From the weekend after the Sandy Hook shooting until now, weve been pretty crazy. I cant keep AR-15s in stock. I cant keep AK-47s in stock.
With Obamas proposal calling for a 10-round limit on magazine capacity, many of the common handguns Morrison sells also would be illegal, he said.
Most of our customers are pretty upset about it, he said. Thats why they are coming in so they can buy something now and be grandfathered in if there is any kind of ban.
According to figures from the Houston County Probate Judges office, applications for concealed carry permits exploded after the Sandy Hook shooting. In November, 241 people applied for a license. That more than doubled in December to 563. So far in January, 413 applications have been filed. Thats already higher than any month last year except December. In 2011, 2,211 permit applications were filed in the county. In 2012, the total was 3,038.
Bibb County Probate Court records show gun license applications spiked dramatically last month. In December 2012, the office in the basement of the Bibb County Courthouse took 227 applications, up from just 85 applications a month earlier. In December 2011, there were 104 applications in Bibb County.
Hamp Dowling, owner of Macons Eagle Gun Range, said he and a small group of people who watched Obamas address on a television inside the store didnt know what to think.
Who knows what its going to be? Dowling said. Its just like the health care bill. You have to wait to see whats in it.
Worries about such prohibitions led to rapid sales, leaving his stock of assault rifles almost depleted.
Weve experienced a flood of customers for anything that might be prohibited. High-capacity magazines went three weeks ago, Dowling said.
Jeff Brown, who hangs out at Eagle Gun Range several days a week, didnt think the bans could pass Congress but if they did wouldnt have any practical effect. He doubts the 1994 assault weapons ban had any effect on crime, and he expects new bans wouldnt work either.
I dont see the point at all, said Brown, who has been shooting guns for most of his 68 years. If I have a 30-round magazine or three 10-rounders, it doesnt matter because the magazines can be quickly changed.
But Dowling and Brown said they had no problem with other parts of Obamas proposals, such as improving background checks. Dowling just remained cautious, saying he supports Obamas moves as long as he doesnt stretch it too far, as hes been known to do.
Howard Reed, owner of Howards Pawn in Macon, gestured toward a broad sparse area in his firearms section and said, Youd think Im having a going out-of-business sale.
Hes working with 20 wholesalers and cant get many new guns, even small five-shot .380-caliber handguns women could carry in their purse.
Reed said Adam Lanza, the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary, could just have easily driven a 4x4 through a school playground and parking lot to kill the children had he been kept from guns. Reed said the 2nd Amendment guarantees firearms to the American people, who used guns from their closets to defeat the worlds largest land army and win independence from England.
Employees and customers at Ingleside Gunworks in Macon were generally skeptical of Obamas pronouncement.
A lot of the stuff hes addressing has been addressed before, said co-owner Tim Coker. We saw this in 94, with the (President Bill) Clinton assault-weapons ban.
Bans on assault weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds were bad ideas, he and others said.
Coker said the loophole allowing individual gun sales without background checks at gun shows probably will be closed, but he sees such restrictions as a slippery slope.
I feel the folks that play by the rules are punished by the few, he said. I know thats kind of our society.
Better school security and firearm education werent controversial at Ingleside, but customer Brandon Melton of Macon doubted the effectiveness of many items on the list of executive orders, signed by the president, related to gun control.
How are they going to enforce a background check on a private sale between me and you? he said. Really, in my opinion a lot of this stuff is, I hate to say a joke, but
Sales clerk Will Hamrick said he was surprised that federal agencies dont already share much of the information that Obamas orders call for. Scoffing at Obama in general, Hamrick repeated a talking point from a National Rifle Association video released Tuesday that calls Obama hypocritical for having Secret Service protect his daughters while opposing the NRAs call for armed volunteers in every school. Obamas executive orders call for giving grant incentives to hire 1,000 more school police and counselors, and improve school safety planning.
Orders that didnt deal directly with gun laws drew less criticism.
Some of this stuff on here is a good reminder, said customer John Cunard of Macon. We do need to work on mental health access in this country. A lot of that has been cut back.
But theres worry that Obama wont follow the democratic process in creating new rules, Coker said.
As soon as Obama said executive order, that sent shock waves through our industry, he said.
The actual shooting in Sandy Hook didnt bring a surge in gun sales at his shop, but the subsequent knee-jerk reaction for gun control did, Coker said. Still, he attributes most of that to regular customers doing all their years purchases at once. He expects a corresponding slump in coming months.
Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said Obamas proposals are aimed at law-abiding citizens. In Macon, the crooks are still going to have guns, he said.
A minority of the shootings in Macon involve guns that were legally owned or were purchased in a store that conducts background checks. Most of the guns used in Macon crimes are stolen, Burns said.
You should never leave a gun in your car, Burns said. If you have them at home, you should have a small safe or something you can put them in.
Writers Wayne Crenshaw, Jim Gaines, Mike Stucka and Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report.