Ever since the Connecticut school schooting, guns have been a hot topic for discussion and debate. However, guns aren’t just being talked about; they’re being hunted. Scores of people nationwide immediately rushed to find firearms after the tragic shooting, some purchasing a gun out of a need for protection and others out of a fear that guns will disappear if current laws are changed.
This mad rush to purchase firearms also occurred here in Sampson County, and local gun sellers and gun owners are weighing in on what they think about the much contested gun situation.
“I think everyone panicked a little,” said Mike Ammons, owner of Mike’s Hunting Shop in Clinton. “I’ve never seen a rush quite like this one after a big shooting. I think this one’s unique, and people have been more responsive because it was children who were targeted.The magnitude of it was huge, and there’s been so much in the news about it. Plus, whenever the president speaks about gun laws, people tend to get a little nervous.”
Locals’ proactive search for firearms following the Connecticut tragedy has made Mike’s at popular place in the past few months. “Sales have increased dramatically. They’ve probably quadrupled in the past couple of months,” reported Ammons, who noted it’s not because of the usual Christmas purchases.
Ammons has noticed that his customers have been on a mission, specific in their purchasing. “Assault rifles, also called “black guns,” like the AR 15, were the first to go. The ones we had in stock were gone within three days (of the Connecticut school shooting).”
Ammons’ stock of black guns and their ammunition continues to remain dry. “We don’t have them and even the dealers don’t. Within 24 hours of the Connecticut school shooting, gun dealers also panicked. When you couple that with the high demand, you just can’t get assault rifles now,” explained Ammons.
“If you do find a black gun, because of the high demand, you’ll probably have to pay double. Prices have just shot up over the past two to three weeks,” said Ammons, adding that “I’m not laying away any guns right now; you have to pay cash.”
While the Connecticut shooting is most likely the driving force behind the high demand for guns, Ammons believes that local crime has also added to the rush. “We’ve had quite a few home invasions recently around here, so I think that has also made locals concerned.”
The combined concern over national and local crimes have caused “high capacity handguns to go fast right now,” said Ammons. “Recently, our sales have been 60 percent handguns and 40 percent long guns which is the opposite of what you would expect since it’s hunting season.”
“Basically though, anything that holds over 10 rounds, that’s what people really want to buy right now,” noted Ammons.
Locals aren’t just wanting to own a gun; they also want to know how to use one properly and to be able to carry it on their person. “From October throught November, we issued over 350 concealed weapon permits,” reported Sgt. Robbie Carter with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office.
Ammons teaches the class required to get a concealed weapon permit and recently he has had increased interest. “I usually teach the class once a month, but for January, I’ve already got five dates scheduled and the classes are full,” said Ammons, mentioning that he likes to keep his classes small, averaging around ten students. “I’ll probably be teaching classes every Saturday and Sunday in January and right on into February.”
The local gun club in Clinton, Coharie Shooting League, is glad that so many are going about getting a gun responsibly. For the gun club, safety and responsibilty are the most important aspects of gun ownership. “I think the biggest components concerning guns and gun laws is background checks and teaching safety,” said Mac Herring, president of Coharie Shooting League. “Here at the gun club, we absolutely promote safety and are constantly on guard for unsafe activity.We enjoy teaching people about safe and responsible gun use.”
With the presence of a local gun club in the community, the high number of concealed weapon permits being issued, and the way his sales keep on rising, one would think Ammons wouldn’t be worried about business. However, he is looking ahead and sees reasons to be concerned. “Business has been good but I am worried about the future. Our inventory has been depleted and restocking is an issue.”
When asked if he’s concerned about the possbile changes to current gun laws, Ammons is cautiously optimistic. “I think there’s a lot of gossip out there right now and people tend to assume a lot too. I think, like a lot of people do, that it’s not so much about gun laws but about some people’s mental state. To me, I think the gun laws are in place that need to be.”
No matter what happens, Ammons knows that all he really has any control or say over is his business and how he chooses to run it. “I feel the gun laws and the record keeping I do is suffient. Locally, I’m not really concerned, especially as far as the guns I sell go, because I know about every gun that leaves here,” said Ammons.
“People have to show me a permit, and when it comes to the permits, I rely on the sheriff’s department to do their job,” explained Ammons. “I also run a check in NICS,” which stands for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This resource helps a gun seller determine someone’s eligibility to buy a gun.
Ammons also uses observation and good old common sense. “I have actually denied sales based on how I heard some people talking. If I didn’t feel comfortable with the way they were talking about guns, I chose not to sell to them,” said Ammons. “I just know that I sell guns right.”
No one knows where the debate over guns and gun laws might lead, but here in Sampson County, locals are making sure that they are armed and they are taking the steps to do it properly, being responsible gun sellers and owners. They, in a sense, have their safety on.
Mike’s Hunting Shop is located at 100 Northeast Blvd. For more information, call 910-592-7671.
Coharie Shooting League is located at 989 Boykin Rd. For more information, visit csl-idpa.com.