The ongoing gun control debate has sparked a rise in sales, local gun shops say.
"There has been a huge increase in sales," John Havlick, owner of Frank's Gun and Tackle Shop in the town of Mayfield, said. "My shelves are kind of bare of the type of stuff people have been looking for, but most are coming in and getting anything they can get their hands on."
Havlick's family has been operating the business for 29 years. He said although there is typically an increase in sales around the holidays, this year's season has been busier than usual.
John Havlick, owner of Frank’s Guns and Tackle Shop in Mayfield, examines a DSA rifle at his shop on Thursday. Havlick said a lot of people have been coming into the shop to buy firearms over the last month.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
Nationally, there were nearly twice as many background checks for firearm sales between November and December than during the same time period one year ago.
The number of background checks tends to increase after mass shootings, when gun enthusiasts fear restrictive measures are imminent, a report by The Associated?Press said. A federal background check doesn't always indicate a gun was purchased, but the firearms industry uses the numbers as an indicator of how well the gun business is doing, the report said.
After the Colorado shootings, the FBI conducted 1.5 million background checks across the country in August, compared with 1.2 million checks in June. Yet the Connecticut shootings energized gun buyers more: Background checks surged in December to nearly 2.8 million, compared with 1.6 million in October.
Havlick said the increase in firearm sales is similar to what happened in the days of alcohol prohibition.
"It comes down to the same thing: when the government says they may take something from you, people are going to go out and grab everything they can just because [the government] may take it," Havlick said. "A lot of [buyers] are just scared [firearms] will be taken away, and others just want them for home protection."
Havlick said a lot of people have come in looking for pistols and a popular rifle known as the modern sporting rifle or AR-15. AR-15 style rifles look like military rifles, such as the M-16, but function like other semi-automatic sporting firearms, firing only one round with each pull of the trigger.
The increase in sales across the nation and locally has caused many of the distributors Havlick uses to be two to three weeks behind schedule, he said.
Havlick said he has dozens of pistols in the back room of his store the buyers will take home after they earn their pistol permits, a process that typically takes three to six months.
James McCarthy, owner of Jim McCarthy Guns in Amsterdam, said he's also seen more people buying firearms and ammo over the last couple of months.
He also said a lot of people have been coming in looking for an AK-47-style rifle and the AR-15 over the last month. He is currently sold-out of both of those weapons, he said.
Havlick said even in a worst case scenario, where guns become illegal, he doesn't think that will keep people from having access to them.
"Just look at drugs; they have been illegal for some time yet they are still available to people," Havlick said.
Possible gun restriction
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said in an interview Thursday that he understands why people are worried about their guns being taken away despite the Second Amendment protection. However, he noted that there are limitations on all Amendments.
"We have the First Amendment granting free speech, yet you can't yell fire in a crowded theater," Schumer said. "Ninety percent of guns used in New York for crime are brought from out of state, so ultimately we need a national solution."
He said he would be in favor of restricting access to firearms for the mentally ill, felons and those with a history of spousal abuse.
Vice President?Joe Biden is expected to send President Barack Obama a package of recommendations for curbing gun violence Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposals in his State of the State address Wednesday included initiatives as an effort to strengthen gun control.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said he doesn't see the need for more gun control.
"I am opposed to any further gun restrictions because New York already has the fourth-most stringent gun-restriction laws in the country," Lorey said. "What we need to do is further enforce the laws we already have. I don't think anything in the governor's proposal will do one thing to prevent one crime."
Lorey said further gun control would be "a foot in the door to further restrictions on the Second Amendment rights."
Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, said he's concerned about what constitutes an assault weapon.
"That [term] conjures up an image in people's minds and it is a negative image," Butler said.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said he expects gun control to be a topic in the state Legislature this year.
"Something probably will be done on gun control," Farley said. "I know the Senate majority is very anxious to have the mental health issue in there and upping the penalty for illegal people with guns, but all of this is under negotiations right now and legislation is not immediately forth coming."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story. Levi Pascher can be reached by email at email@example.com