Gun sales at one local sporting goods store increased this month after the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., but the shop owner hopes those buyers will educate themselves on how to use and store their new weapons for the safety of themselves and others.
Dan Mahoney, owner of Mahoney’s Outfitters, said much of the renewed interest in guns — particularly assault-style weapons — comes from people not knowing what restrictions might be implemented by the government because of several mass shootings this year.
“A lot of this is unknown and it’s feeding on itself. The more people talk about it the more people think it’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s like the Mayan calendar ... a lot of people believed that.”
In the days and weeks since 20 school children and six teachers or staff were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, people across the country flocked to gun stores. Johnson City residents were no different.
“Gun sales have definitely been up, black gun sales,” Mahoney said, referring to semi-automatic assault weapons. “Everybody wanted a black gun because all of a sudden the government was saying they were going to introduce legislation,” he said. “Half of the people didn’t know what it looked like.”
Still, interest was high and so were sales. “The so-called black guns sold out of stores in a day or two,” he said.
Statewide, there were a record number of background checks for gun sales on the weekend of the Connecticut shooting. For that Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation performed 9,772 background checks, according to spokeswoman Kristin Helm. That was 500 more checks than the second biggest weekend on record, which was Black Friday and the two following days in November.
Mahoney said the last time there was a so-called gun scare came just before a 10-year ban on assault weapons that began in 1994.
“For 10 years you couldn’t buy black guns. Then when it was reinstated, nobody wanted them,” Mahoney said. “There were six or eight years when nobody wanted them. Any dealer who had one on their shelves had to look at them for years.”
Then interest slowly began to increase and seemed to peak after some type of mass shooting, just as it did a couple weeks ago. But given the time of year that shooting occurred, part of Mahoney’s increase in gun sales likely came from holiday sales as well as a growing interest in target shooting, he said.
“Five years ago, you didn’t have a lot of people target shooting. Now, you have men and women getting out there doing that,” Mahoney said. That drives gun and ammunition sales, he said. “I don’t want to sell a gun for the wrong reason. I want to sell a gun for the right reason … the right reason is target practice, home protection, anything you responsibly use a weapon for,” Mahoney said.
“The question now needs to be on gun safety (and) responsible ownership. If you heave a weapon in the house, how do you keep it away from your kids, how do you keep it away from someone stealing it?” Mahoney said.
He encourages gun owners to take the handgun carry permit class even if they never intend to obtain a carry permit. “Those classes teach you how to handle it, how to keep it,” he said.
Mahoney also said there needs to be a conversation about how to keep mentally ill people from purchasing a gun. “People that are buying guns for the right reasons, they need to continue (so) leave them alone. People who are buying them because of hysteria” should reconsider such a purchase, he said. “I appreciate the business, but I would like to see more responsible stuff coming out of it (like) what do you do when you have one.”