Durham stores busy amid gun control discussion

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 06:31 PM

Durham Gunsmithing on North Roxboro Road in Durham was the second store that Charlotte-area resident Matt Terry said he visited trying to find an AR-15 assault rifle for sale. But he said the Durham store was sold out on Saturday.

“People are thinking they’re going to be illegal,” said Terry, who said he was in the area on Saturday for the holidays, and he wanted to see what was available. He said he and family members have semi-automatic weapons, but not that particular style. Semiautomatics automatically reload, but fire a single round per trigger pull.

Terry said that people are buying assault weapons for fear they’ll someday be illegal. He said they’re being sold online at higher prices. The first store he visited had limited supply, he said, while the second was sold out.

The gun control discussions came in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. President Obama said Wednesday that he’s asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to come up with gun violence-related reform proposals by January.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday in a press briefing that the president would be supportive of legislation to revive an assault weapons ban, as well as proposals to close the “gun show loophole.”

In 1994, a federal law went into effect restricting the manufacturing, transfer and possession of certain semiautomatic weapons, as well as restricting large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, for civilian use. That expired in 2004.

In North Carolina, it’s illegal to sell, give, dispose of, use or possess machine guns, which are defined as weapons that can shoot more than one shot automatically without manual reloading by a single function of the trigger. There are exceptions to that law for U.S. Army soldiers, offices of the state, or of a county, city or town, and in other cases.

However, Brenda Carter, who works at the N.C. General Assembly Research Division, said semiautomatic weapons are not illegal in the state.

N.C. Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said he wants to introduce gun control legislation in order to spark a discussion among legislators. Luebke said he also wants to see a repeal of a state law that makes regulation of firearms a state issue, preventing counties and municipalities from regulating their possession, ownership, storage, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing and registration, except for some exceptions.

“I think in the Republican-dominated legislature, the chances are not great, however, it’s critical that there be a debate on these issues, and the only way for these issues of gun safety to be debated is for one of us to introduce legislation,” he said.

Terry said he’s been a gun enthusiast, and a hunter, for years. He said he also enjoys target shooting. He said he believes that people who don’t know about firearms are scared of the term “assault weapon.”

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t do anything different than a hunting rifle,” he said. The gun control discussion is a “knee-jerk reaction” to an issue that he doesn’t think is in need of a solution.

The problem is “keeping them out of the hands of children,” he said. “It’s how we teach people to handle them,” he added.

Requests for interviews at Drye’s Gun Shop in Bahama were declined on Friday and Saturday. A worker who answered the phone Friday said the store had a line of customers. The owner of Durham Gunsmithing also declined an interview.

A worker who answered the phone at the sporting goods store Mace Sports in Mebane also declined an interview, saying the staff was slammed as a result of the holidays, and the gun control debates.

Thomas Garrett, an Iredell County resident, stopped at Mace Sports on Saturday to see what semiautomatic rifles and ammunition the store had available. He said he delivered presents to family he has in Durham.

“The answer is no,” Garrett said of the availability question.

In regard to gun control legislation, Garrett said he doesn’t think there’s a law that could be put in place that would prevent what happened in Newtown.

He also said he believes that in the case of someone who may have issues with anger, it’s not a good idea to “try to bond over firearms.”

He said he’s disappointed that the debates are not focused more on how to help people with mental health issues.

“It just seems there are a lot of people that have children, kids, young adults in situations – they would like help, and they can’t seem to get it,” he said.

Austin Brown, a student who said he had traveled home to North Carolina for the holidays, said he was at Mace Sports to pick up some ammunition for target practice.

Brown said he believes that more strict gun control is not the answer. He also said he supports allowing teachers to carry weapons in school.

“People who are going to break the law are going to break the law,” he said.