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Gun sales up amid talk of stricter laws

Stores are seeing big jumps in purchases of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The rush to purchase weapons on Oahu reached new levels this past week as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders stepped up talks about stricter regulations in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., grade school shooting that took the lives of 26 children and adults.

Gun shop owners reported big sales bumps, particularly in the area of assault-style, semi-automatic weapons, while the line to register guns at HPD headquarters on Friday wrapped halfway around the building by the time HPD employees arrived for work at 7:30 a.m.

The past week's developments put into overdrive what has already been a record-breaking year for gun registrations on Oahu.

HPD Capt. Andrew Lum confirmed that through Nov. 30, HPD had registered 23,643 new handguns and long arms. With a month to spare, that figure broke the record 23,443 guns registered in 2011.

A surge in gun sales occurred after Obama's re-election on Nov. 6 as many worried that the Democrat's return to the White House would signal a push for stricter gun laws.

HPD had earlier reported that at the end of October, there had been 20,991 guns registered for the year, meaning a staggering 2,652 new guns were approved in November alone. A sign on the front door of HPD's Records and Identification Division put up on Nov. 26 warned people that they should not expect service if they arrive after 3 p.m., 90 minutes before closing time, and see a long line.

That was before Newtown.

By Friday, people were starting to line up as early as 3 a.m. at the Records and Identification Division.

On Friday, at OGC Tactical in Kalihi, managing member Carter Berlin said the number of people gathering in his shop "got a little ridiculous" during the week, especially after Obama held a Washington news conference on Wednesday to announce the formation of a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with stricter gun law proposals.

Sales of AR-15s went up an estimated tenfold from Wednesday through Friday, Berlin said. His stock of those weapons went from 140 at the beginning of the week to four late Friday, and he was showing two of them to potential customers when the Star-Advertiser reached him by telephone.

A good number of those making the purchases are first-time buyers, he said.

"We have people coming in saying, ‘I always wanted to get one, so I will buy one now while I still have a chance.'"

X-Ring Security & Firearms in Waipahu was also bustling. Store manager Brian Takaba said gun sales are up four to five times this week. Most people are buying assault-type weapons and high-capacity magazines, among the list of items mentioned as targets for federal bans.

Takaba said gun manufacturers on the mainland are no longer taking new orders and that the last time he received any new guns was more than a month ago.

"Supply is nearly non­existent," he said. "All the wholesalers where we order our products from are basically shut down. They have enough backorder to last them well into next year."

Ewa Beach resident Roland Antonio, 64, was at the shop picking up an AK-47 for about $1,200. He estimated it would probably have cost him $800 to buy the same gun last week. The Vietnam veteran said he wanted to add the gun to his collection, which consists mainly of hunting rifles, largely for nostalgic purposes since he used such a weapon during the war.

"I wouldn't take this for hunting," he said of the AK-47. He said he will take it to the range for target shooting to challenge himself, "to see if you're as good as you think you are."

Accompanying Antonio was friend Felix Tan, 43, also of Ewa Beach. Tan said he owns several handguns and rifles, but is looking at purchasing an assault-type weapon "because they're the ones that might be banned. The others are going to be around."

Tan said he intends to buy one "as soon as I get my paycheck," assuming X-Ring or another store still has one available. He said he does not own guns for security reasons, but strictly for leisure.

He wants an assault weapon because "it's a preference — I like the feel of it," he said. "Plus, it looks nice."

Tan takes two of his children, ages 13 and 11, to the Koko Crater shooting range but is very strict about locking up the guns at home when they are not in use.

Takaba said he doesn't think a change in gun laws would have prevented the Newtown killings. Proposals to change the federal law to require gun owners be at least 21 years old, banning fully automatic assault rifles and requiring mental health checks for people who want to buy guns are all already in place at the state level in Connecticut, he said.

In Hawaii, gun owners must also be 21 and be cleared by a physician for mental health issues. But while there is a ban on fully automatic assault rifles, semi-automatic assault weapons are allowed. Semi-automatic weapons load automatically, but only one bullet is fired per trigger pull.

Takaba said one thing that could have prevented the Newtown shootings is a law requiring guns be stored in safes or other types of secured enclosures.

"Guns in your closet and under your bed? Anybody can just break into your house and steal them," he said, noting that he recommends to his customers that all weapons be locked away.

At Honolulu Firearms and Range on Queen Street, administrator Cameron Cortez said his staff is reporting a fivefold increase in sales. Practically every gun sold last week had been an assault-style, semi-automatic weapon, he said.

The AR-15s, the most popular of the weapons the store sells, are going for between $1,000 and $3,000, he said. "We're trying to keep (prices) at (manufacturer suggested retail prices) for now," he said.

Cortez would not say exactly how many assault weapons he has left, but said while "it is depleting rapidly," there will likely be enough to last through the end of business today, the last day the shop is open before Christmas.

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RichardCory wrote:
I'm not sure I understand the logic here. People are buying certain guns out of fear that they will be banned in the future. But if they are banned in the future, then you'll no longer be able to legally own them anyway. Unless you're planning to keep an illegal firearm, then you just wasted your money by buying it. And the worst part is that you have to register the gun when you purchase it legally, so HPD will know about it if the firearm you bought becomes illegal to possess. What's the point?
on December 23,2012 | 05:07AM
Wazdat wrote:
on December 23,2012 | 05:42AM
kaupena wrote:
The gun ban law Obama is pushing for is NOT confiscation but no sales or transers of assault weapons. The grandfather clause will kick in and those who already has one will be able to keep it but NOT be able to legally sell it or transfer it to someone else.
on December 23,2012 | 01:15PM
RichardCory wrote:
Okay, now that makes sense if it's true. Would help if the article would provide information to that effect.
on December 23,2012 | 01:59PM
cojef wrote:
That will never happen if you favor gun control including confiscation. Media bias has always presented misinformation and even to the point of stretching the facts.
on December 23,2012 | 03:09PM
bl8rnr wrote:
Hawaii has stricter gun laws than most other states, it kept the assault weapons magazine limit after the federal law expired. You cannot be sure that Hawaii would not pass a complete ban on military style weapons like the AR15 or AK47. Many people are spending thousands of dollars in hopes of having one of these guns should a ban take place but they may be in for a shock if there is confiscation along with a ban.
on December 23,2012 | 03:29PM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 23,2012 | 06:18AM
jcjr wrote:
Police need to know who has guns and what type. Just because you pass the psych evaluation when you make your purchase, doesn't mean you will never go off the deep end one day. If the police and mental health department work together and a discovery is made that an individual who was once sane is now insane and owns a firearm, I think it would be smart for the police to take that gun away. I know I wouldn't want the nut case next door to me owning an arsenal of guns! Be rational in your thinking because it could be your loved one being shot one day by someone who should not be owning a gun. I'm sure your views would be very different and you would then blame the system for failure.
on December 23,2012 | 08:58AM
Thegame wrote:
Don't be defenseless when your crazy neighbor comes over.
on December 23,2012 | 10:12AM
aomohoa wrote:
I would surely rather live next door to someone like jcjr than Thegame.
on December 23,2012 | 06:08PM
Anonymous wrote:
The police have no idea how many guns a person may have. . when some one passes away they tend to leave it to family. no way to trace them
on December 23,2012 | 10:23AM
jcjr wrote:
The police department does do checks on deceased to find out if they owned a registered firearm. A letter is sent to the family of the deceased so that they know how to handle the situation. Many times the guns are given to a family member who then goes through the process to become the registered owner. Sometimes they are put on consignment at gun stores or just turned in to the police department for destruction. I am glad Hawaii has tough gun laws. Perhaps thats why we don't have as many shootings. I just pray it never happens here.
on December 23,2012 | 11:06AM
Anonymous wrote:
My grandfather was a gun collector he loved colt rifles and guns he owed 30 of them. he also had brought back a few guns when he came back from ww2. when he passed he gave me 8 and the rest went to a uncle. the police have never contacted me.
on December 23,2012 | 01:16PM
cojef wrote:
A life member of NRA and have fabricated Colt 45 with the capability to shoot 38 special by changing the barbell and slide. Had to make a modification on the ejector. My pistols, rifles and shot guns are all stored in a steel locked safe in the den and ammunitions for the weapons stored in wooden cabinet in the garage. Used to hand load 45, 9mm, 357, and 38 specials, not anymore as I no longer is active as a target shooter. Also have a hand ma
on December 23,2012 | 03:17PM
cojef wrote:
Cont'd on my post accidentally posted: Also possess a hand made "hara-kiri" dagger a friend made and a WWII Japanese military sergeant sword that is my brother's war trophy. I personally have no qualms about restricting the sale or ownership of high capacity magazines for assault rifles. However, that is in conflict with gun rights advocates, so will not force the issue.
on December 23,2012 | 03:24PM
aomohoa wrote:
Good post again:)
on December 23,2012 | 06:09PM
allie wrote:
they lack basic education
on December 23,2012 | 07:51AM
peanutgallery wrote:
You fail to understand history, especially ours'. The second amendment wasn't just written to provide a means for self-defense. It was written because our forefathers understood the diabolical nature of an oppressive government, and just how hard it is to free yourself from it. These aren't things to be scoffed at. They are real, and the time we live in surely presents the distinct possibility that our forefathers were not only right, but prudent beyond our understanding.
on December 23,2012 | 09:23AM
aomohoa wrote:
I don't think our forefather's could have predicted the military style weapons that have been used at all of these massacres. Maybe they would have thought twice.
on December 23,2012 | 06:13PM
Upperkula wrote:
It's called the Grand Father clause.
on December 23,2012 | 06:13AM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 23,2012 | 06:20AM
Anonymous wrote:
far from it.
on December 23,2012 | 10:20AM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 23,2012 | 06:23AM
mrluke wrote:
Agreed! It really frosts me the way the media keep referring to "assault rifles". A term that they coined to begin with.
on December 23,2012 | 07:24AM
onevoice82 wrote:
Takaba said; "Guns in your closet and under your bed? Anybody can just break into your house and steal them," he said, noting that he recommends to his customers that all weapons be locked away". What good is a weapon locked away when the burglar is standing over your bed ready to kill you and then r@pe your wife! I bet you any money that Takaba makes that statement to every customer just to avoid litigation or try to keep his gun shop from closing. He has a loaded semi-automatic pistol in his night stand ready to go, just like I do and always will. If someone steals it when I am not home, then I'll buy another and hope that I am home the next time the theif comes in. That's all!!!
on December 23,2012 | 06:57AM
KurtNJ wrote:
The answer to making Hawaii safer is not to ban guns but require insurence policy for guns like cars. Let's have the insurance industry asses the risk and charge accordingly.
on December 23,2012 | 07:12AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Great idea KurtNJ. Have registration and safety check every year just like cars. You may not like it but if you want to own a car you need the proper paperwork.
on December 23,2012 | 09:01AM
stingray65 wrote:
Hey Duhh, have you ever notice how many cars or vehicles on the road with expired safety and registration? Did they get stop by cops? Try again.
on December 23,2012 | 04:32PM
peanutgallery wrote:
The very last thing we need is another way for insurance companies to get in our pockets.
on December 23,2012 | 09:24AM
allie wrote:
on December 23,2012 | 07:51AM
jcjr wrote:
Hopefully your kid doesn't get hold of it first! How many burglars have you encountered so far? I don't recall anyone having to shot a burglar in a any recent Hawaii news. The chances of a tragedy occurring from improperly storing your firearm has already happened. Learn from that horrific school shooting that has turned those parents life into a living hell because of a improper stored firearm. It's called responsibility.
on December 23,2012 | 11:22AM
aomohoa wrote:
I agree with you again jcjr:)
on December 23,2012 | 06:17PM
stingray65 wrote:
onevoice82: You can always tell burglar, please wait, I have to get me guns from my safe.. for the main time go ahead and rape my family!! LOL I totally agree with you..Hey, burglar watch that flashing light coming out from my super 90 Benilli, then smile!! That is a 2 and a quarter inch. magnum... 12 GAUGE.. Oh by the way you should bring more of you friends and family so I do not have to look for them. :)
on December 23,2012 | 04:30PM
aomohoa wrote:
I doubt I would ever bring a child of mine to your house and more than likely your neighborhood.
on December 23,2012 | 06:19PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The unintended consequence of all those speeches about gun control was to put many more guns in the hands of people before changing any of the rules. In other words, it did exactly the opposite of what was planned by the political grand stand people.

I especially disliked the hypocrisy of the famous Hollywood "stars" speaking against guns - these people have 24/7 armed security so they feel free to tell the little people "you don't need any protection."

on December 23,2012 | 07:22AM
onevoice82 wrote:
Great point, I never thought of that!
on December 23,2012 | 07:27AM
serious wrote:
So does the President and family, VP and family, Speaker, Senior Senator and the whilte house and Senate and Conress are all patrolled by armed Capitol police--but they are all against guns. They are just trying to protect the middle class from guns. Speaking of the "stars" they campaign for the Democrats that want to raise their taxes--they are either morons or really less than astute.
on December 23,2012 | 10:07AM
aomohoa wrote:
on December 23,2012 | 08:41AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Curious to know how many self-defense ocurrences there are versus homicidides/suicides per year? Interesting article online- here is the link: http://library.med.utah.edu/WebPath/TUTORIAL/GUNS/GUNSTAT.html Quoting the article: "The issue of "home defense" or protection against intruders or assailants may well be misrepresented. A study of 626 shootings in or around a residence in three U.S. cities revealed that, for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides (Kellermann et al, 1998). Over 50% of all households in the U.S. admit to having firearms (Nelson et al, 1987). In another study, regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and suicide in the home (Dahlberg, Ikeda and Kresnow, 2004). Persons who own a gun and who engage in abuse of intimate partners such as a spouse are more likely to use a gun to threaten their intimate partner. (Rothman et al, 2005). Individuals in possession of a gun at the time of an assault are 4.46 times more likely to be shot in the assault than persons not in possession (Branas et al, 2009). It would appear that, rather than being used for defense, most of these weapons inflict injuries on the owners and their families." Very interesting.
on December 23,2012 | 09:22AM
Bdpapa wrote:
One thing to remember, any weapon taken from you becomes a weapon against you. This refers to individuals , not laws.
on December 23,2012 | 11:02AM
kainalu wrote:
Yep. Statistically speaking, if a gun is used at all, it is exponentially more likely to be used against the gun-owner, or someone associated with the gun-owner like family, friends, neighbors, assoiciates, etc, than it will used in "self defense". Some have already forgotten that the gun-owner of the gun used at Sandy Hook was the first victim - shot by her own firearm.
on December 23,2012 | 12:21PM
Cantopop wrote:
Happy holidays. That's the Christmas spirit...
on December 23,2012 | 11:49AM
They will never ban guns and the president should think for once. If so, I will own the first illegal gun. I have the right to protect my family. We already have strict gun laws and I abide by them, I am "A Law Abiding Citizen". Now you want to change me.....FOOL. Boy will the bad guys have a "field day" with no one owning guns.....JUST STUPID.
on December 23,2012 | 05:01PM
aomohoa wrote:
And the crazy kid who killed 26 people and his own mother did with with legally owned guns. You sound like you are a vigilantly in the old west!
on December 23,2012 | 06:23PM
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