PARKERSBURG - Local firearms dealers talked about the challenges they face and the impact of calls for gun control laws nationally in Parkersburg Wednesday.
Discussion also included the push by firearms advocates to exercise their right to bear arms.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., hosted a Second Amendment Roundtable discussion Wednesday at the Parkersburg City Building that was attended by firearms dealers as well as Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., hosted a Second Amendment Roundtable discussion Wednesday at the Parkersburg City Building that was attended by area firearms dealers as well as Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin.
"We want to hear what is on your minds," McKinley said. "I want to hear things from you all who are in the business.
"There are a lot of rabbits you can chase in Washington, D.C. I don't like to chase rabbits. You start chasing every rabbit, you lose your effectiveness. I try to stay focused," McKinley said.
McKinley said rumors have been flying around about the government is buying up ammunition.
Cheryl Hagerman, co-owner of On Target in the Lubeck area, said she gets emails from people talking about that. None of the dealers had a clear idea if there was any truth to the rumors. Some see it as a way for the government to control gun ownership.
Whenever there is a mass shooting, like Sandy Hook Elementary over a year ago, people start pushing lawmakers to enact laws to try to deal with what they perceive is a problem with the availability of firearms to those who should not have them.
McKinley said he doesn't want to create additional laws; he wants to reinforce what they have so it works better.
The firearms dealers said that when people start pushing lawmakers for more laws to deal with gun violence, their business goes up. There is now a shortage of .22 ammunition.
"After Sandy Hook took place, we gained 31 million new gun buyers and now they are buying ammunition," said Deano Hagerman, co-owner of On Target. "Everyone's buying habits have changed on the retail and wholesale side.
"Instead of ordering one case to put in your store, you are now ordering 5,000. (Manufacturers) are producing all they can now, but they cannot keep up with demand."
Firearms dealers said more people are hoarding ammunition and .22 ammo has become a commodity where people buy it up, creating a greater demand for it and then those people sell it at a higher price.
Martin said the police department now looks further ahead in its ammunition orders to make sure it always has enough available.
McKinley said after the recent mass shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., there wasn't the call for more gun control that followed other recent mass shootings.
The firearms dealers said upcoming elections are curbing many politicians reactions due to the possible political fallout.
Martin said West Virginia has the highest gun ownership rate per capita and the lowest crime rates per capita in the country.
The firearms dealers said most violent crimes occur in places designated as a "no gun zone," places like schools, theaters and shopping malls. Many said signs like that invite trouble and that if people who are permitted to carry firearms were allowed to carry, those kind of crimes would diminish at those places.
The parties talked about mental health evaluations in whether someone could get access to a gun. Many agreed it would be hard to track as someone could already be in possession of a gun or obtained one legally. Would they seek out a private sale or some other avenue to get a firearm, people said.
"Many of these people have not done anything wrong," Cheryl Hagerman said of the people prior to the shootings.
Bills have been introduced to get an inventory of the mental health facilities and treatment options, saying few know what is available, McKinley said.
McKinley said some gun owners have tried to provoke law enforcement to see if they could take their guns by carrying them around at public events.
"You are always going to have wackos," Deano Hagerman said. "We have a well behaved gun community, but you always have some wackos that spoil it for everyone.
"Changing the gun laws are not going to impact anything. Very few gun laws make any sense," he said.
Many gun rights advocates could individually be OK with certain rules and laws put in place; however, many fear if they give an inch on certain issues someone will come along and try to take more and more, the dealers said.
Shawn Lowrance of Lowrance Precision Firearms in Parkersburg said many gun dealers have refused to sell guns to someone who said something that caused them to think the gun might be used inappropriately.
"I don't want to sell a gun to a criminal," he said. "I do care.
"We as dealers have the right to refuse somebody."