Gun dealers say death of ban won't matter much

September 17, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL


Several owners of gun shops in the Tri-State area say they do not believe the expiration of a federal ban on assault weapons will have a dramatic impact.

Still, the ban's expiration was seen by some of them as a philosophical victory.

Several gun shop owners speculated this week that the demand for certain types of assault weapons isn't likely to increase rapidly in the wake of Monday's expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Act.

But Brad Sheppard, owner of Shep's Sporting Goods in Martinsburg, W.Va., said some customers started requesting information about purchasing the now-legal guns as soon as the ban expired.


"I've had a couple of people come in who want to order something in those lines now," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said people could legally purchase some assault weapons, such as the AK-47s and AR-15s, as long as the weapons did not bear two or more of the following features: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a bayonet mount, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher.

"These guns have really been available the whole time, just without those characteristics," Sheppard said.

Sheppard said his business likely will not carry the items but will order them for customers, pending availability.

Sparks Sport Center Inc. refuses to deal in such weapons, owner Dick Pharr said. Pharr said he does not believe it would be a positive move to carry the assault weapons.

"We've been getting a lot of calls concerning that, but we don't really handle those because we don't think that's a good image for our gun owners," Pharr said. "It's an image we don't want to be identified with."

Don Horowitz, owner of Don Horowitz Gunsmith of Mercersburg, Pa., said he believes the ban's expiration will make no difference to gun owners in that area. Horowitz said most of the gun styles regulated by the 1994 law are not popular with hunters, a group he believes includes the vast majority of gun owners in the area.

"The AK-47 is not a hunting weapon, it's a target weapon," Horowitz said. "Very few of my customers own an AK-47 or AR-15 because this is a hunting area."

Steve Palmer, owner of Appalachian Mountain Products in Williamsport, was one of several owners and managers in Washington County who said they believe the county is not a strong market for the weapons that are now legal.

He said few shooting ranges cater to such weapons.

Palmer said the expiration is still seen as a victory for those who believe in the right to bear arms. Palmer criticized the law for not having any real impact on reducing gun-related crimes, as it was intended to do.

"It is a return to some common sense on the Second Amendment rights," Palmer said.

Palmer and Bill Scally, owner of the Arrow and Bullet in Hagerstown, said several of the styles that were under the federal ban, such as the handgun version of the Israeli-made Uzi, remain illegal.

Scally said the Uzi was among 15 semi-automatic pistols banned by the state of Maryland in 1994. They also are banned under a 1989 federal law prohibiting imports of specific automatic weapons.

Scally said owners appear to be most happy that magazine capacities now can exceed 10 rounds, which was the maximum under the federal ban.

Still, Scally said he was not expecting a large increase in demand for guns such as the AK-47 and AR-15, which he called "expensive fads" of the past, unless President Bush loses his bid for a second term in November.

"If (Sen.) John Kerry gets elected, people will be buying them like they're going out of style because he'll ban every gun they can get their hands on," Scally said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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