NEW CASTLE —
Gun sales often pick up in the fall, but this year was different.
A scenario that included the typical fall hunting season, Christmas, the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shootings and fear among gun owners that newly re-elected Barack Obama would push Congress to curtail gun ownership boosted weapon sales beyond gun dealers’ expectations.
“This might have been our best year ever,” mused Duke Morosky, owner of Duke’s Sport Shop at 2801 New Butler Road in Shenango Township. “We’ve been very, very busy. Getting the products has been our only problem.”
Typically, Morosky said, he is busy each fall when sportsmen stop in prior to hunting season to see what’s new or to purchase a .22-caliber rifle to introduce a son or grandson to the sport.
After election day in November, however, sportsmen, and non-hunting men and women went to see what Morosky had on his shelves. He had even more customers after Christmas.
“Some had Christmas money or gift certificates and were interested in buying gun(s). Others came in because they were concerned that after the Dec. 14 shooting (in Connecticut), Congress would push interests in banning privately owned guns.”
In addition to the “usual outdoorsmen,” this year, his customers have included doctors, lawyers and office workers.
“People are looking for security,” he said.
Morosky said he has sold many handguns this year. That’s in addition to the long guns, the rifles and shotguns.
His most popular item was the AR-15, a semiautomatic weapon that resembles an assault rifle. That was the model used in the Newtown rampage and in earlier mass shootings this year in the movie theater in Colorado and at a mall in Oregon.
His most popular handgun is the Glock. These guns, he said, “are dependable, safe, easy to use and are carried by about 67 percent of all police officers.”
The .22 rifles are also popular for young hunters.
“They are economical, quiet, have almost no recoil. They are good to use to learn to shoot and take target shooting.”
Ammunition for all weapons is also selling well.
With the growing interest in gun ownership nationwide, getting people what they want has been a concern this year, and some guns are back ordered, he said.
According to a Gallup poll, almost half of all Americans reported having guns in their homes in 2011 — almost 300 million legally-owned weapons.
David Fullerton of Lone Wolf Gun Shop on Covert Road said this has been his busiest year since he opened four years ago. He said he is seeing an increased interest in handguns.
“What we can get, we can sell,” he said. “Some items, the supplier has a hard time getting for us.”
Fullerton said ammunition, also selling well, has been in good supply.
“But you never know,” he said. “People are afraid controls will be put on (guns and ammunition) and you won’t be able to get it. You just never know.”
Both dealers say there is confusion regarding how weapons are purchased.
“You can’t just plunk cash down and walk out with a gun,” Morosky said.
Every potential gun buyer must be cleared through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
“We do check, especially someone with a common name like Smith or Jones. We make sure that you are the Jim Smith or Bob Jones you say you are, not the one with a criminal conviction history,” Morosky explained.
Usually there is no waiting period. The longest delay between purchase and ownership is the time required to fill out a questionnaire which is submitted online.
“Then you wait 10 minutes — 30 if there is a lot of activity and the system bogs down.” Fullerton said. “But if you come in for a gun, you can get it that day — as long as you’re approved by the instant check.”
“With computers, everything is instant,” Morosky agreed.
He added that all guns in his store are registered to the business.
“We can’t sell a weapon without re-registering it.”
All gun shops try not to put weapons into the hands of the wrong people or people seeking gun ownership for the wrong reasons, Morosky said. “We work closely with the police and will call them if there is a problem.”
Sometimes people who should not have guns, such as individuals with mental health history or convicted felons, will send others into the store to buy guns.
“We have stopped those purchases when we find them,” he said.
HANDLE WITH CARE
Morosky said that when he sells a gun, he tries to make sure the owner understands how the weapon works and how to load, unload and maintain it.
He also recommends that new gun owners join one of the many local sportsmen’s club, such as the Castle Pistol Club, so they can take their weapons to a shooting range and experts can teach them to use it.
“We welcome anyone to come back if they have any questions,” Morosky said.
A member and past president of the Coachmen’s Club, Morosky said he participates annually at the Sportsmen’s Night Out at Laurel High School.
“I believe everyone — men and women, boys and girls — should know how to use a gun and that firearm safety should be taught in schools,” Morosky said. “You may think not everyone is interested, but everyone should know how to pick up a gun, how to check if it’s loaded and to safely be able to unload it.”
The Coachmen’s Club is a sponsor of Youth Field Day each year to give children a taste of the outdoors.
“We feed them, give them a shirt, they play games. They have fun and learn about fishing, shooting, safety and conservation. They learn to enjoy in the outdoors.”