Staff and wire report
LUMBERTON — From the outskirts of the capital to the state’s largest city, North Carolina residents have rushed to secure gun permits and buy weapons in the wake of the shooting deaths at a Connecticut elementary school on Nov. 14. Many of the customers were purchasing last-minute Christmas gifts, while a few were purchasing their guns in fear of looming government bans and restrictions.
Aaron Byrd, co-owner of Patriot Shooting Sports in Youngsville, said he had a dozen AR-15s in stock before they were snapped up in about a day and a half following the Newtown shooting. Youngsville is just north of Raleigh.
“Things have been crazy the past couple of days,” Byrd said. “A lot of people have been coming in looking to purchase semiautomatic rifles. They’re worried that the government’s going to ban semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, so they’ve been coming in looking for those. And we’ve sold out of all of them.”
A gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle and several high-capacity ammunition magazines slaughtered 20 children and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last week. The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at her home.
Just down the road from Youngsville, in nearby Rolesville, owner David Driver of Hunter’s Haven said he has also sold the few AR-15s he had in stock. He said his shop focuses more on archery.
“More people are buying stuff for fear of other people, to protect themselves from the way society is going,” Driver said.
Driver also said he thinks people are worried that a potential government ban means they won’t be able buy semiautomatic weapons. He expressed his own concern that new laws will make it harder to buy such weapons.
“They’re going to vote on this and they’re not going to give us the opportunity to do squat,” he said. “It is not a democracy — them telling me what I can and cannot do.”
The rush also was on in Robeson County, where Tommy Bryant, the owner of Bryant’s Gun and Pawn, was too busy assisting customers to speak with a reporter on Thursday.
Jeff Dawson, 63, of Lumberton was at the shop to buy a gun — a purchase that had been planned, but was not a priority because of Newtown.
“I’ve been planning on buying one for six months,” Dawson said. “I definitely see things getting more difficult in the future in regards to purchasing a weapon, so I did it now.”
Julia Rush of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office said her office usually sees about 50 applications a day to purchase a weapon. Between last Saturday and Monday, the office received 290 applications.
Rush attributed the increase to the school shootings, but also said the guns may hold value in the future.
“The shooting made people more aware of their safety,” Rush said. “I also think people are purchasing weapons right now thinking it’s going to be an investment because possibly down the road they will be harder to get. Somebody made the comment that, ‘Hey, this is better than an investment than in gold.’”
Associated Press writers Allen Breed in Youngsville and Mitch Weiss in Charlotte contributed to this story, as did staff reporter Thomas Breenan.