With uncertainty about the future of federal and state gun-control laws, some Frederick County gun dealers are reporting increased sales.
“Last week was pretty crazy,” said Bob Wilson, owner of Stateline Gun Exchange in Emmitsburg, speaking of the period leading up to Christmas.
He attributed part of the surge to holiday shopping, but said much of it was in response to increased calls for gun-control legislation in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 elementary school students.
Wilson said his store had a record week leading up to Christmas and record sales in 2012, although he declined to provide specific numbers.
Sales usually pick up after elections, such as the one in November, because of uncertainty over what new legislators will do, he said.
Tim Brown, owner of the Gun Shack in Mount Airy, agreed, and said a similar surge followed the 2008 presidential election.
People are buying because they’re unsure what will happen with new gun laws, Brown said.
He said sales started picking up after the November election, and really went into high gear after the Connecticut shooting.
Maryland regulates handguns and certain guns classified as assault weapons but doesn’t regulate rifles or shotguns.
Regulated firearms require a seven-day waiting period, completion of a training course and a background check by Maryland State Police before they can be purchased in Maryland.
Assault weapons and handguns are selling the most, along with ammunition, cases and other products related to guns, Brown said.
“Anything that’s regulated, that’s what’s being bought up,” he said.
The Maryland State Police’s licensing division processed 7,247 gun-purchase applications in November and are projecting more than 8,200 in December, spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said.
In 2011, the department processed 46,339 purchase applications, but are projecting more than 62,000 applications will have been processed in 2012, a more than 30 percent increase, Black said.
Meanwhile, several Maryland lawmakers plan to propose legislation in the General Assembly session that starts Wednesday to ban assault weapons and give police increased authority to track illegal sales.
Sens. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park and Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase plan to introduce a bill that would ban assault weapons such as the Bushmaster .223-caliber semiautomatic used in the Connecticut shooting.
Another bill would let state police audit gun stores’ records and investigate stores that have lost weapons or the documentation that goes with them.
A similar bill was introduced in the General Assembly in 2012, but failed to make it out of committee, while an assault weapons ban suffered the same fate in 2010.
State Del. Galen Clagett (D-Dist. 3A) of Frederick said he’s sent a letter to Maryland’s congressmen and senators urging them to take on federal gun-control legislation.
He said the nation also needs to provide more money for mental-health care, and take a hard look at violent video games that make killing look easy and fun.
Clagett, the chairman of the county’s House delegation, said he grew up around guns and learned the power they can have, as well as the responsibility that comes with carrying one.
The gun culture is part of America’s history and should be seen as a positive rather than a negative, he said.
“What we’ve done is deny our heritage,” he said.
But he said it’s time to examine the availability of handguns and assault weapons, as well as to outlaw “right to carry” laws and sales of firearms at gun shows.
Coincidentally, the Frederick Fairgrounds will serve as the site of the Silverado Gun Show on Saturday and Sunday, advertising 350 tables for gun dealers, according to the show’s website.
No one should be able to buy a handgun without proof that they’ve completed a safety course and background check, Clagett said.
He remains concerned about the availability of AK-47s and other assault rifles that don’t serve a real purpose for hunting or other legitimate uses.
“What good is that weapon except to kill people?” he asked.
Staff Writer Holly Nunn contributed to this story.