GOSHEN — The short barrel of Brandy Keen’s new gun, her first, comes with a lavender-colored flourish.
“I wanted my first gun to be kind of cute,” she said Wednesday, finishing up the background check and other paperwork so she could formally take ownership of the weapon.
That said, it’s no toy, and with the gun control debate reaching a crescendo, she takes guns seriously.
“I feel that we should still be able to own our guns and protect ourselves and our families,” the Nappanee woman said. “I just purchased my first gun and I think it’s my right to do so.”
Obama announced a slew of gun control measures Wednesday, proposing universal background checks for gun buyers, a ban on military-style assault weapons and more. It immediately fueled sharp back and forth among political leaders, and at ZX Gun here — a focus, along with other retail outlets, of the debate — Keen and store manager Ryan Stoy offered up a strong defense of gun rights.
“Violence has been going down in the last 20 years and the number of guns has only gone up,” said Stoy, taking a break as a steady flow of customers streamed in and out. If guns are so problematic, he wonders, why did crime go down over the past two decades?
Keen, after filling out the federal form that’s part of the background check, said if new obstacles toward gun ownership are put in place, buyers will seek out arms on the black market. “They’re going to buy them illegally,” she said.
‘ANXIETY IS UP’
The view in ZX Gun is hardly two-sided, but it offers a glimpse into gun-rights advocates’ take on the gun issue, which has popped to the fore in the wake of last month’s Newtown, Conn., school killings. The Connecticut incident, perpetrated by a 20-year-old man with apparent mental health problems, led to Obama’s proposal Wednesday.
Stoy lamented what he described as the injection of misinformation into the debate, in things like the terminology used. So-called assault-style weapons have been a big target of those seeking a gun crackdown, and the store manager said tweaking minor features of a gun can make a weapon fit the definition or remove it from the category, underscoring the seeming fuzziness of the phrase.
“It’s a way to put a handle on something, put a label on it and make it scary,” he said. The focus on such arms, he maintains, is “artificial.”
Indeed, reflecting a national trend, he’s seen a spike in sales at ZX Gun amid the Newtown-inspired debate as gun aficionados worry about implementation of a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Sales are up six-fold at ZX Gun, he figures, and the store, jam-packed at times in recent weeks, has run out of AR-style semi-automatic rifles.
“It’s pretty much impossible to get ARs or magazines for them,” he said.
Likewise, more and more people are applying for concealed-carry gun permits, worried that Indiana rules allowing for a lifetime permit will be rescinded. Whereas it used to take six weeks to process a concealed-carry permit request, it’s now taking “months” because of the increased demand.
“Anxiety is up,” Stoy said.
Like the National Rifle Association, Stoy, the father of a school-aged child, would favor law enforcement or guards of some sort at all schools, all school entrances if possible. He also spoke out against gun-free zones, places where guns are legally prohibited.
Making such restrictions only serves as a tip-off to ne’er-do-wells that they’ll be able to use their guns unimpeded, that they won’t face resistance from those legally toting guns. “It’s guaranteed they’ll have at least 10 minutes to shoot up,” he said.
As he sees it, in fact, violence is an unfortunate fact of life, with or without guns. “People who want to kill will always find ways to do it,” he said.
Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack.