KINGSTON – Like most gun dealers nationwide, Norm Gavlick at Gun Hippo has seen sales increase sharply in recent weeks, but he warns about jumping to conclusions and assuming it's all related to the Connecticut school shootings and renewed talk of federal gun regulations.
For starters, the surge coincides with Christmas, and seasonal climbs in sales are as normal for gun dealers as for any other retail outlet.
Gun sales also have increased every month for the last two years, Gavlick noted, speculating that it is, in part, due to fears that one political party is eager to institute new gun regulations.
Gun sales also spike any time there is a particularly frightening local incident – a home invasion or shooting, for example – that stirs a desire for self-protection. You see people coming in who never owned a gun before, Gavlick noted.
And despite all the talk of a mad rush to purchase models of the semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles – one of many civilian variations of the U.S. Army's M-16 generally referred to as AR-15s – the bulk of sales at Gun Hippo since the Newtown tragedy has been handguns, Gavlick said.
Not that he couldn't sell more ARs – or the iconic Russian variation, the AK-47s – if he had them. There's plenty of demand – enough to allow AK manufacturers to double their prices, even after Gavlick had ordered three for a customer seeking the rifle made famous in movies from Apocalypse Now to Octopussy.
Before last week, a gun like this was $650, Gavlick said, holding up an AK. The company I buy from doubled the price.
They called and advised him of the change before shipping the ordered rifles, he added, but the reason seemed obvious: It's the demand, Gavlick said.
According to multiple reports, Bushmasters and other AR-15 rifles have been flying off shelves nationwide post-Newtown, largely in expectation they could be banned.
Several large retail chains stopped selling them shortly after the tragedy, and the company that owns Bushmaster announced it is selling the subsidiary.
But Gun Hippo employee Justin Howe said the real reasons to own them are for competitions and they're fun to shoot.
Gavlick and Howe also reject the term extended clips, and talk of banning them, noting guns have clips of varying capacities for various reasons, including competitive shooting that tests both timing and accuracy with several different types of guns.
Using a rifle instead of a handgun isn't intrinsically more deadly in a situation such as the Connecticut shooting, Gavlick added. While the Bushmaster ARs have clips that can hold as many as 30 shots compared to 19 in a Glock, with enough practice a person can eject an empty clip and insert a new one faster in a pistol than a rifle.
Both are semi-automatic guns that shoot as fast as a person can repeatedly pull the trigger, so quicker reloads can actually mean more rounds fired in the same amount of time with the pistol.
Gavlick and Howe contend new restrictions on gun sales won't prevent future tragedies like Newtown, noting the shooter in that case was too young to legally own a gun, and stole the weapons from his mother.
Had the mother used lock triggers on the guns or stored them in a gun safe inaccessible to her son, and had she taken action sooner in relation to mental issues he apparently had, the killings never would have occurred, Gavlick argued.
In my opinion, that whole incident would have been prevented if she had been a responsible gun owner.