BR gun sales rise on fear of upcoming restrictions

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Jared Duet with Jim's Firearms, left, shows a Smith and Wesson AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to Tommy Milioto, center, and his cousin Chad Milioto on Wednesday. Local gun and pawn shops say gun sales have increased at their stores recently, mostly due to customers' fears of certain weapons being banned in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Jared Duet with Jim's Firearms, left, shows a Smith and Wesson AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to Tommy Milioto, center, and his cousin Chad Milioto on Wednesday. Local gun and pawn shops say gun sales have increased at their stores recently, mostly due to customers' fears of certain weapons being banned in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.

Kevin Reed spent his Wednesday afternoon examining the inventory at Jim’s Firearms on Siegen Lane.

Reed, a Michigan resident who is visiting family in Baton Rouge, said he wanted to see the selection before it disappears.

“I really wanted to come and see what was left on the shelf,” he said.

Reed and other firearm enthusiasts have been spending more time at Baton Rouge area gun stores and pawn shops, and the shop owners and employees are saying they have seen greater gun sales since the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.

Jim McClain, owner of Jim’s Firearms, said his store has seen an increase in sales, especially with “military-style weapons,” in recent days and weeks.

However, McClain said his shop usually sells more firearms around December because of Christmas shoppers.

He also said sales have gone up since President Barack Obama was re-elected Nov. 6.

Obama on Wednesday said he is asking a team led by Vice President Joe Biden to offer “concrete proposals” to curb gun violence no later than January, according to the Associated Press.

“Unfortunately, with the current administration and their knee-jerk reaction to look at either banning or restricting the sale of firearms to law-abiding civilians, it has gotten people uneasy,” McClain said.

“It’s unfortunate that a 20-year-old psychopath, who stole his guns after he committed a felony and made a horrendous act, is causing a nation to look at their freedoms and their gun rights,” McClain added, referring to Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman in the Connecticut shootings.

Reed said he owns a variety of guns, including multiple AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, for self-defense purposes. He teaches self-defense classes and is a National Rifle Association certified handgun instructor.

Reed said the country does not need more restrictive gun laws because the Second Amendment allows citizens to own firearms for self-defense.

“If you disarm the public, you’re leaving only the police with weapons, and the criminals, who won’t give them up,” Reed said.

Tommy Powell, president of BJ Pawn and Gun in Denham Springs, said gun sales have “definitely soared” in the past few days.

Powell said most of the guns sold have been semiautomatic rifles such as AR-15s and AR-10s.

He said his customers are worried about either losing their guns or being unable to purchase them later. He is worried tighter gun laws could lower his sales by 15 percent, Powell said. However, he said he does not see tougher gun legislation being passed immediately because of the lobbying power of the NRA.

“Guns have always been a large portion of my business,” Powell said. “We’ve already been trying to position ourself so that it doesn’t hurt as bad. But it’s going to hurt.”

Robert Rich, owner of Rich’s Coin and Gun on Monterrey Drive, said demand for all types of guns at his store has gone up “300 percent” since Friday.

Rich said he always sees an increase in demand at this time of year, but not at this level.

He said his customers, like others, are worried about losing their gun rights.

“It’s hard to say where exactly they (lawmakers) are going to pinpoint their target for banning or limiting purchase on guns,” Rich said. “They could approach it from several different angles. We really don’t know yet what the final legislation is.”

A number of other local gun sellers declined comment for this story, citing the sensitive nature of the issue.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has removed all guns from sale and display in its store nearest to Newtown, the company said in a statement on its website. It also has suspended sales of modern sporting rifles in all of its stores nationwide. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation website, a “modern sporting rifle” is a semiautomatic firearm that fires just one bullet with each pull of the trigger.

Local managers for Dick’s could not be reached for comment.

In a related matter, “Sons of Guns,” the popular Discovery Channel reality TV show about Baton Rouge-based Red Jacket Firearms, is not scheduled to air anytime soon, Discovery Channel spokeswoman Amy Hagovsky said in a statement Wednesday.

“ ‘Sons of Guns’ is currently not on the schedule and it is not on the schedule in the near future,” Hagovsky’s statement said.

Hagovsky did not respond by press time to questions as to whether the show was put on hold because of the Connecticut tragedy. Representatives for Red Jacket Firearms also could not be reached for comment.