Central Vt shops say gun sales have risen
BARRE — Firearm sales have increased in central Vermont, according to two local gun shop owners, since the shootings last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed, including 20 children.
According to the shop owners, buyers are looking to defend themselves and to get weapons while they can, expecting they’ll be outlawed.
Henry Parro owns Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury. He said he has seen a substantial increase in gun sales since the Dec. 14 shooting, but he couldn’t say exactly how many more guns were sold or what the percentage increase was.
Parro said many of those who have been buying guns recently are first-time gun owners who are “worried they will become a victim.”
“They want the opportunity to protect themselves and their families,” he said.
The Newtown shootings have rekindled the debate about gun control measures that might be implemented in America. One of the first ideas discussed was reinstating a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
Parro is opposed to such a ban, saying “assault weapons” is a “left-wing media term.” Parro said what people are referring to are semi-automatic rifles that function in the same way as many hunting rifles, but simply look different.
“So, I guess the federal government is saying: We should discriminate on looks,” he said.
Parro sells Bushmaster rifles, the same brand used in the Connecticut shootings. He characterized the weapon as “fun” and said it is used for hunting, self-defense and target shooting. Parro also called the Bushmaster a collectible.
“It’s a very intriguing weapon,” he said.
Many people have questioned the average person’s need for high-capacity ammunition magazines that allow shooters to fire many rounds in a short period of time. The shooter in Newtown reportedly had multiple high-capacity magazines in his arsenal.
Parro said “law-abiding citizens” do not use such magazines. He cited a Vermont law that says a hunter cannot use a magazine that holds more than six rounds when hunting with a semi-automatic rifle. Parro’s website lists several semi-automatic rifle magazines that hold 10 rounds, however.
He said the talk about gun control is “a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event.”
Parro said liberal politicians have an agenda to take firearms away from law-abiding citizens.
He referenced the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives citizens the right to bear arms. Parro said the amendment was created so American Colonists could protect themselves.
“What were they protecting themselves from?” Parro asked. “The government — the British government.”
Parro also cited Chapter 1, Article 16 of Vermont’s Constitution which states that “people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves.” He said this language is cleaner and easier to understand than that used in the U.S. Constitution because of the phrase “defence of themselves.”
Parro blamed the media for the problem, saying they turned the shooter in Connecticut into a “hero” by giving him so much coverage.
Parro said he wished the media would leave the Newtown victims’ relatives alone so they could mourn. He also questioned why another school attack on the same December day in China, in which 22 schoolchildren were wounded with a knife, was not given more coverage.
Rick Sanborn owns R & L Archery in Barre. He also has seen a “noticeable increase” in the sales of firearms since Dec. 14. He attributes some of it to typical holiday shopping but added that people are telling him they’re purchasing guns now because they’re afraid Congress will outlaw them.
Sanborn opposes a ban on assault weapons because, he said, the one signed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton was ineffective. The ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Sanborn said that ban had language defining what an assault weapon was, with the capacity to be outfitted with features like folding stocks, flash suppressors and bayonets. The language created what amounted to a loophole, as manufacturers merely retooled their designs to make the guns legal again.
Sanborn suggested that doing more thorough background checks on purchasers of firearms is one promising way of trying to prevent shootings like the one in Connecticut. He also suggested that most gun owners have no problem with that.
“There’s not a single gun owner out there that’s ever complained about having the background check done,” he said.
That, however, would not necessarily have stopped the shooting in Newtown, since the killer reportedly took the guns from his mother and didn’t purchase them himself. His mother, who was also killed in the rampage, had acquired the weapons legally.
The so-called gun show loophole, wherein people can privately buy and sell guns without any background checks being performed, is not in play during the annual Central Vermont Gun Show that’s coming up next month in Barre. The show is sponsored by the Barre Fish and Wildlife Club, and Sanborn said all the vendors at the show are also licensed firearms dealers. So buying a gun from one of those vendors will be the same as buying a gun in the store. In other words: A background check will be performed.
Sanborn said his store offers a service for people who want to sell a gun to another person. The seller can pay $35 and the store will perform a background check on the purchaser.
He also advised anyone selling a gun to create a formal bill of sale, thereby making a paper trail so if the gun is later used in a crime, the seller would have proof of having sold it.
A week after the shooting in Newtown, the National Rifle Association released a statement calling for every school to have an armed security officer.
Sanborn said that would be ineffective. He said there are many entrances to a school and one armed person would not be able to watch every entrance. He said the idea of arming teachers is a good concept, but it could raise problems concerning how to keep the guns accessible to teachers but not to students.
In a recent interview on Vermont Public Radio’s “Vermont Edition,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said that, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he plans to hold hearings this month on gun control.
A gun owner himself and a former state prosecutor, Leahy said he would vote in favor of a new ban on assault weapons. He called Vermont’s limit on magazines for semi-automatic rifles during hunting season sensible but questioned why the limit couldn’t be extended to include nonhunting situations.
“It seems almost as though we are saying we’ll be more protective of deer than we are people,” Leahy said.
Leahy said the hearings will also look into the other factors contributing to gun violence in America, including mental illness, violent video games, and violence in movies and other entertainment media.
As for his family, Leahy said he won’t allow his grandchildren to play violent video games or watch violent movies. He also said they still haven’t seen his cameo appearance in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” because of the violence in the movie.
Leahy said he doesn’t like to watch violent movies because, as a former state’s attorney, he has seen what real crime scenes look like. And even those, Leahy said, were “only a tiny bit as horrible as the things responders saw in Connecticut.”
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