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Gun debate goes to the store

Local buyers line up as school massacre stokes talk of new limitations

Gun sales in northeast Indiana are surging as political rhetoric heats up over the Connecticut elementary school massacre.

“I’m not proud of it,” Shaun Beiswanger, owner of Sniper Co. in Fort Wayne, said Wednesday. “I have children of my own. But the tone of the way stuff is being addressed is freaking a lot of people out. We saw the same thing happen with the Colorado theater shooting and with the re-election of the president. But this is different.”

Twenty children and six adults were killed when a man carrying a military-style rifle stormed Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last week. President Obama vowed Wednesday to send Congress new policy proposals for reducing gun violence by January.

He gave Vice President Biden the task of leading an administration-wide effort to create the new recommendations and pledged to push for their implementation without delay.

The president also Wednesday called on Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to pass legislation that would close the gun show “loophole,” which allows people to buy firearms from private dealers without a background check. Obama also said he wanted Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.

Bill Harris owns B&H Firearms of Fort Wayne. Harris said he doesn’t lack sensitivity but said lawmakers should enforce the laws already on the books instead of creating new ones.

“Some of what they’re talking about doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I mean banning anything that holds over 10 rounds” won’t stop violent incidents. “It only takes half a second to reload, so it’s like you have 20 rounds anyway.”

Ed Hirschy’s Discount Guns in Auburn could barely manage a phone interview due to an influx of customers.

“We’re swamped,” Hirschy said. “Guns are selling like crazy. I’m sure the FBI is backed up with background checks.”

The National Rifle Association of America had been unusually quiet, but it broke its silence on Tuesday with a statement.

“The (NRA) is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown,” a statement on the group’s website said.

The NRA said it is planning a news conference Friday, in which it may shed light on what the organization meant by saying it’s prepared to “offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

That kind of talk has sent shivers down the spines of gun advocates and has cash registers ringing.

Some gun outlets are taking advantage of the hysteria by price gouging, Beiswanger said.

“We don’t operate that way,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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