Fresno gun dealers see high demand for semi-automatics

The Fresno BeeDecember 18, 2012 

A national sporting goods store is suspending the sale of semi-automatic rifles similar to a weapon used in the Connecticut school shootings, but several area gun dealers say demand for AR-15-type rifles is surging.

Dick's Sporting Goods announced on its website that it suspended sales of "modern sporting rifles," which includes the AR-15 design. The company declined to answer Associated Press questions about how long the suspension would last or which weapons were being pulled.

Dick's has more than 500 stores in 44 states, including stores in Fresno, Clovis and Visalia.

Barry Bauer of Herb Bauer Sporting Goods said manufacturers can't keep up with a nationwide demand. Dozens of companies, including Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Bushmaster, make versions of the gun. Only one part of the AR-15, the lower receiver, is registered with the government, while other components such as the barrel, stock and sights can be added to make variations of the complete weapon.

"It's kind of difficult to ban the most popular gun in America," said Bauer, who said AR-15 has been the biggest seller for several years. He declined to say how many of the guns he sells.

Commenting on reports that Dick's had stopped sales, he said: "Great. More for me."

Bauer called the Connecticut shootings "horrific and terrible," but said such tragedies could be stopped if schools would employ a retired police officer for security or train administrators to use firearms to stop the threat.

He added that he thinks Congress and President Barack Obama should focus on mentally ill people behind mass shootings.

"We need a nationwide database of the mentally ill," he added.

Herb Bauer wasn't the only store busy Tuesday. At PRK Arms in east-central Fresno, customers filled the store shoulder to shoulder waiting for a chance to get to the counter. The store displays several racks of semi-automatic rifles.

James Mize of Valley Rod & Gun said one person bought two AR-15s Monday at his Clovis store, along with a home defense-style shotgun. He said the store probably sells 15 AR-15s a year.

In northwest Fresno, Bill Mayfield of Gilmay Guns said he sold "four or five" lower receivers for the AR-15 on Monday.

"They used to be hard to find," he said. "Now, it's impossible."

Mayfield added that the surge in gun buying by Americans "has never stopped" since President Bill Clinton was in office and is driven by fears of new gun legislation. He also scoffed at proposals for new gun legislation planned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

"If Feinstein had to give up her wealth (and security protection) and live in your neighborhood, she would probably apply for a concealed weapon permit," Mayfield said.

Also Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that 2,000 firearms were seized from people legally barred from possessing them, including persons determined to be mentally unstable and those with active restraining orders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6339, jguy@fresnobee.com or @jimguy27 on Twitter.

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