Local gun store owners in Manatee brace for restriction debate

jdill@bradenton.comDecember 18, 2012 

MANATEE -- Cameron Barnhill has seen an increase in gun sales recently -- but not, he says, because of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Barnhill, who owns Florida Tactical Armory, says sales have been up since the November re-election of President Barack Obama and the expectations he will push to reinstate the expired ban on the purchase of assault weapons.

"Since the election, there's definitely been a (sales) growth, in particular, assault rifles," Barnhill said.

But since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that left 28 people dead, 20 of them children, the talk has shifted to gun control. Rather, what, if any, measures are needed.

Barnhill's shop, located across from McKechnie Field on Ninth Street West, specializes in personal defense. The store has been in the area for about a year.

Barnhill sees stricter laws in the future but is unclear what those will be.

"Beyond anything I've ever seen in my life, there's a sense of hopelessness," Barnhill said. "Nobody knows what the future holds. But ... there's absolutely no question we'll have more restrictions.

"Almost certainly what's going to happen is the same thing that happened to cigarettes and alcohol -- taxation," he predicted. "We'll try to reduce it. We'll reduce it if we tax it. It didn't work with cigarettes and alcohol. It just made it more expensive. But they are going to try."

Within days of Obama's reelection, the United Nations renewed efforts for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.

"So these things are already taking place," Barnhill said. "But beyond that, people just know history. And in history, whenever a country falls into bad economic times, there's also violence and chaos. The two go hand in hand."

Dave Jones, of Self Defense Firearms & Hobbies in Palmetto, said his shop does background checks as mandated by law.

"It has not changed, there is no reason for it to change," Jones said. "It is stated by federal law and state law that we do a background check."

There are more than 310 million firearms in the United States and, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there were 19,140 firearms recovered and traced in Florida during 2011.

Barnhill insists that stronger gun restrictions stemming from Friday's massacre isn't the answer.

"Last week, there was a nut job (who) goes into a mall in Oregon to do a mass killing, but he was stopped by someone who was a legal, good person, who never had to shoot his gun" he said. "He just drew his gun, the guy saw it and shot himself.

"I guess, I think all of armed America is scratching their heads wondering, 'Why wasn't there anybody there to shoot back? Why do we have innocent people that are just fish in a barrel? That just doesn't make sense.'"

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