Leap in firearms sales ‘unprecedented’

Jerry Stehman, left owner of Jerry’s Outdoor Sports, 2999 North Ave. in Grand Junction, shows handguns to Skip Fleming of Rifle.The store was packed Monday with people looking to buy guns.

Knee-jerk responses to last week’s unimaginable school shooting in Connecticut tend to go one of two ways: It’s either time to strengthen firearms restrictions or it’s time to further arm ourselves.

At least in Mesa County, based on what some area gun retailers are reporting, it seems the push to get guns and ammunition is on.

Jerry Stehman, owner of Jerry’s Outdoor Sports, at the Interstate 70 Business Loop and 30 Road, called the boost in business he’s seen since Friday “unprecedented,” and said customers have been clearing rifles, handguns, shotguns and ammunition from his store’s shelves.

He said statewide wait times to clear background checks and walk away with guns—normally about 30 minutes—were approaching 20 hours on Monday.

“(The Colorado Bureau of Investigation) in Denver is so backed up that you probably wouldn’t get (your gun) until tomorrow,” Stehman said.

CBI has said the number of single-day background checks submitted on Saturday, the day after the horrific shooting, set a state record. The previous record was set just a few short weeks ago, on Black Friday Nov. 23, when a little more than 4,000 background checks were requested in that single day, officials said.

All the sales activity doesn’t make Stehman less sick to his stomach, though.

He said people in his store have been upset and emotional, and they talked about how the Connecticut shooter was “obviously a mentally sick kid.” Stehman sounds shaken up when talking about the shooting. “This is really a mess this time,” he said.

License to carry

It’s not just sales of firearms and ammunition. More people are also exploring the idea of getting a concealed carry license.

CBI reports it did 251,307 background checks for concealed carry last year. The organization is on pace to process well beyond that number this year, according to the most recent numbers.

Sheriff’s departments are the ones who actually issue the permits, once the background check is complete and after all fees are paid. They require proof that the applicant has completed proper handgun training through a certified program.

But the certificate is not hard to get in Colorado. By watching an hour-long online video, passing a short test, and paying a fee, you can get an acceptable training certificate.

Seven Colorado counties do not accept the compressed, online version of the certificate, instead requiring hands-on, actual shooting. Mesa County is not one of those counties.


Get trained fast, and online

One of a number of websites that make the training as simple as possible is ColoradoConceal.com. Co-owner Roger Leach said, “There’s been quite a dramatic increase” on the website since Friday. He also conducts in-person training across the country, and said there’s been more interest in his classes lately.

“There are lots of people out there thinking about getting a concealed carry license—but that’s often where it stops. They think, ‘That’s something I want to do someday,’ ” Leach said.

“And then when something like this happens, they start thinking about their children and the safety of their family.”

“That’s when they say, ‘I’m going to stop thinking about it and go do something.’ “


Politics plays a role

For Stehman, the emotion about the crime soon turns into frustration—about a culture that glorifies violent video games, television and music, and a society that continues to “blame an inanimate object.” He fears political conditions are ripe for new restrictions, on either the assault rifles or high-capacity ammunition magazines that Jerry’s sells, or both.

“The handwriting is on the wall, especially with (Gov. Hickenlooper) getting control of the (state) House and the Senate,” Stehman said. “It’s probably a done deal that we’re going to go to magazine restrictions.”

Stehman is staunch in his belief in unabridged firearms ownership rights.

“This is exactly what our Founding Fathers would have been talking about,” he said of assault rifles, noting the Second Amendment was installed to defend against a tyrannical government.

“What do you think we have right now?” he rhetorically asked.


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I am very tired of the hyperbole of people like Stehman. Our government is not tyrannical. I’ve been reading Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants.” Read it. The descriptions of the governments under aristocrats in Germany, Russia, and the British Empire before and during WWI are chilling. Children as young as 10 were forced into prostitution just to get a loaf of bread to eat. Bosses could flogg employees for any number of percieved infractions, including expressing a dissenting political opinion. We do NOT have a tyrannical government by any stretch of the imagination. We do have two clearly identified problems to deal with, hopefully through thoughtful legislation and compromise: inadequate access to mental health care and a gun culture that actually believes that assault weapons are needed in every household. I grew up around guns. I don’t own one. I dont need one. I’ve been burglarized, and since burglers come when nobody is home, the only thing that would have happened if I owned a gun was another gun owned by a criminal. I’ve been in a bank robbery where there was a shoot-out. The robber died when he jumped out of a window, two employees were traumatized, one with a gun shot in her butt as she was ducking under her desk. I’ve been in a robbery of a pizza joint, where the robber held a gun in his lap, pointing at me while instructing the guy behind the counter about what he wanted. There is no way I could have pulled a concealed weapon and defended myself. This attitude that everybody needs a gun is pure paranoia and nonsense. I don’t mind people hunting or going to a gun range to shoot, but to demand that assault rifles be accessible to everyone who can pass a background check—when most mental health information isn’t in the database in the first-place—is pure horse pooh pooh.

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