Call it the law of unintended consequences but as politicians are starting to talk tough on gun control, Ron's Guns in East Lyme has never been busier. "People are buying guns like it's going out of style," said owner Ron Rando.
Business couldn't have been brisker after President Obama announced 23 executive orders regarding gun control yesterday in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month. The store's parking lot was full and the narrow aisles between the gun racks were jammed with people, some of whom were coming in to buy guns for the first time ever.
First-time buyers were confronted with mounds of paperwork required by the state for background checks to ensure they were mentally sound and had no criminal record.
"We have 22,000 gun laws on the books right now," said Rando. "They should be enforced."
Gun Control: How Much Is Enough?
Rando has been in the gun retail business for 40 years now and has testified against gun control measures proposed at the state Legislature in Hartford more times than he can count. And while he said he doesn't have a hard spot with some proposals, such as one that would limit magazines to 10 rounds, he fears that the end goal of gun control is to ride roughshod over the Second Amendment.
"All this is a ploy to disarm the American people," Rando said. "It's the idea of taking something away from me that I have a right to own."
Rando isn't the only person who sees it that way. Gun control was the major topic of conversation at the store yesterday. There was talk of the federal government's actions that resulted in children dying at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and of what might happen if only government officials were allowed to carry arms.
One man came in with newspaper articles showing that the worst elementary school massacre in U.S. history was in 1927, resulting from a 55-year-old man in Bath, Michigan, who strapped a bomb to himself and walked into an elementary school. It served to bolster the oft-repeated opinion that if people are intent on doing harm, they will find a way to do it, gun or no gun.
A number of people said that if lawmakers really wanted to prevent future tragedies, they should focus more on providing mental health services than on gun control. The Sandy Hook shooter's mother had been trying for two years to get mental health care for her son, they noted, with no success.
"Most of the shootings have come from people who do not have guns legally," said one customer at Ron's Guns from Waterford. "There are people that love and respect guns in this country who want to make sure they don't get shot by guns."
New Fears, New Gun Owners
Rando said he's been seeing a fair number of people coming into the store who told him they never dreamed of owning a gun until Sandy Hook. One couple, both of whom were in their 80s, came in just this week to buy a gun for the first time, he said.
"Since this catastrophe happened with this idiot kid, it's been going crazy," said Rando. "People who never wanted to buy a firearm are coming in. They say they want to be able to protect themselves."
A good number of people are also coming in to buy firearms and ammunition that they fear may not be available for much longer. "The AR-15 style is what everybody wants, plus magazines," said Rando. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic, magazine-fed, lightweight rifle that, in the wrong hands, can do considerable damage.
The shocking and highly-publicized shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School; the Aurora, Colo. movie theater; the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that targeted U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; and the Washington D.C. sniper attacks all involved semi-automatic weapons with magazines that provided enough ammunition to facilitate a killing spree.
At least one person came into Ron's Guns yesterday looking to buy an AR-15. The demand has been so great that there's just one display gun left in the store and that's already spoken for, Rando said.
East Lyme resident John Drabik, who works at Ron's Guns, said he thinks much of the talk about gun control is more politics than commonsense.
"It's knee-jerk legislation based on emotion," he said. "It's time to be a little more objective. This is big government telling you what's best for you. Their agenda is not to make America safer, it's to disarm all Americans. I think it's going to lead to quite a few lawsuits."
As Drabik sees it, "an armed society is a peaceful society."