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Gun Control Talk Spurs Gun and Ammunition Sales in Maine
12/18/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Published reports in Maine and around the country suggest that the mass shooting in Connecticut on Friday has spurred interest in buying guns and ammunition. This, even as President Obama and some members of Congress say they will support an assault weapons ban, and as some gun distributors and retail stores put a self-imposed moratorium on the sale of certain firearms. Susan Sharon visited a local gun store in Auburn, where sales were brisk even before last week.

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Gun Control Talk Spurs Gun and Ammunition Sales in Listen
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Gun shop owner John Reid at his store in Auburn.

At Reid's Gun Shop in Auburn, owner John Reid says his business is up 30 percent over last year, much of it since the re-election of President Obama. Friday's school shooting has only resulted in even more interest from gun owners and would-be gun owners investing in self-protection. Reid says he's even gotten requests from several organizations that want to beef up security to prevent a Newtown-style incident from taking place.

"I had a telephone call Friday from organizations in greater Lewiston/Auburn that are concerned about their people that come to their organizations, work at their organizations and they're looking to have some individuals go through a handgun safety course and be trained in firearms and get a concealed firearms permit to have when their place is open," Reid says.

Among the customers looking to purchase guns or ammunition is 80-year-old John Hyman of Mechanic Falls. Hyman owns a couple of handguns and a pump shotgun. He says his main concern is that ammunition may become scarce, or so highly taxed and regulated that he can no longer afford it.

"That's one way of getting rid of the guns, is to tax and get rid of the ammunition, making the manufacturers not able to meet specs, let's say," he says. "Either safety or some other rules - who knows what's coming down the line?"

Friday's tragedy has sparked a national debate about gun control. This morning, former congressman and conservative MSNBC television host Joe Scarborough did an about-face on gun control, saying the "Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military style high-caliber, semi-automatic assault weapons with high capacity magazines to whovever...they want."

Meanwhile, the retail chain Dick's Sporting Goods says it is suspending sales of military-style rifles during "this time of national mourning." And Reid says he's hearing from some gun distributors that they are suspending sales of certain weapons.

"One of our main distributors - yesterday we talked to him - and all of their what they call 'black guns,' which are AR-15s, so on and so forth, they put 'em on lockdown. They're not selling any," Reid says. "They say that they're gonna wait and see how things shake out."

Some Republicans now say they're willing to discuss the issue of gun control, along with mental health issues and violent video games. Gun shop owner John Reid, who is former Auburn police officer, agrees it's a conversation that's long overdue.

But Jeff Weinstein, of the Maine Gun Owners Association, says there's a lot more information about the gunman that is needed first. He thinks the focus should be on mental illness, not firearms.

"I do known that there are some people who, politically, want to take advantage of the situation and blame it on the firearms, which is totally, totally false," Weinstein says. "One can argue - and I can see the arguement - that firearms play a role in it, but the fact is it takes a person who is mentally ill in order to do what they did - such a horrible, horrible thing."

In fact, it's not clear whether the gunman was diagnosed with, or being treated for, mental illness. But the role of mental illness in the violent rampage at the Sandy Hook school has now become as much a part of the debate as gun control.

The National Rifle Association released a statement Tuesday saying its members were "shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders." The group has scheduled a news conference for Friday.

Photos by Susan Sharon.

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