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NH gun dealer seeing uptick, but Conn. killings only a part of the reason

Senior Political Reporter

December 19. 2012 10:07AM


As key state lawmakers consider possible action in the wake of last week's tragic school shootings in Connecticut, one of New Hampshire's oldest gun shops is experiencing an uptick in sales, its owner says.

But Ralph Demicco, owner of Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett, said Tuesday his business had an earlier 'surge' in business after President Barack Obama was reelected because, he said, gun buyers believed even then that the President will push for 'some sort of legislation' to tighten restrictions on firearms.

'In addition to that, it's Christmas time and things are generally busy. And then this heinous thing that happened

in Connecticut, there has been somewhat of another bump in sales,' Demicco said in an interview.

'To what degree that is the cause of it, it's hard to say because things are already operating at pretty full capacity as it is,' said Demicco.

Other firearms dealers in the area refused to discuss sales following the Connecticut massacre.

Spokesmen at Sig Sauer's headquarters in Exeter and its new academy in Epping did not return calls and Carey McLoud at the new Shooters Outpost in Hooksett said it 'would not be appropriate' to discuss sales at the current time.

But the 'Personal Protection in the Home' course offered by the Manchester Firing Line Range, also owned by the owners of the Shooters Outpost, is full until February, according to the range's web site.

Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc., announced on Tuesday it has suspended the sale of 'modern sporting rifles' in all of its stores. At the State House, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said lawmakers are 'sickened by the tragedy,' but he was not aware of any particular bill filed in response to it, yet.

'We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to enforce existing law, and I think the intersection of mental health issues and the Second Amendment needs careful attention,' Bradley said. 'That's where the discussion should start, at least. I think we can reach a broad consensus on it. 'We're all going to have to act like adults here and that's a good starting point,' said Bradley.

Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, said all related laws will be reviewed.

She said there may be an effort to review the current so-called 'stand-you-ground' law passed in 2011.

'And I believe there will be another discussion of allowing guns in the State House,' she said.

'You can't have guns in the court houses, so it wouldn't be unheard of to reinstate the policy that had been in place for many years,' banning guns from the State House, said Larsen.

But she said that 'with the ease with which people pass borders, you have to rely on the federal level. It's difficult to have any state-by-state anything.'

Larsen said Democratic senators met on Monday, 'and had a quick discussion but there will be more. We need to review where we are.'

'Obviously people respect Second Amendment rights, but there are also the rights of private citizens to feel safe,' she said.

Veteran Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, said, 'We really have to think about how we deal with the mentally ill. We know that hospitals have done away with psychiatric wards and the State Hospital is jammed.

'The fact that something has to be done along those lines was a foregone conclusion even before this tragedy,' D'Allesandro said.

Demicco, who has owned Riley's for 39 years, said purchasers are not generally bringing up the Connecticut shootings when they buy firearms.

'If there is any comment made, it's something to the effect that this is certainly going to spur the discussion of some kind of proposed legislation, and they're just not sure, and they're just not going to take chances,' he said.

'When the perception is that something is going to happen, then the product becomes impossible to get,' he said.

He said ammunition has been 'at an all-time shortage for the last three or four years, since the President was elected the first time.

'We all have ammunition to sell but we don't have all the ammunition we would want to buy,' said Demicco. 'Ammunition companies are operating a full tilt and people are stocking up on ammunition not knowing what potential legislation may be in the offing.

'There is tremendous fear of the unknown,' he said.

Demicco said semi-automatic rifles, also referred to as 'assault weapons' and 'modern sporting rifles,' have always had 'steady and strong' sales, 'and they continue to.

'Are they selling more now? Maybe slightly, but people are not stripping the shelves.'

Demicco said he has 'strong feelings' about how such tragedies may be at least somewhat deterred in the future.

'The common denominator I see is mentally unstable people victimizing the defenseless, and it's universal,' he said.

'Every firearm purchaser is subject to a NICS (National Instant Check System) check and run through a series of data bases, and most of those data bases do not contain information on mental disabilities, problems leading to having them committed.

'Is this the next frontier we have to look at?' he asked. 'I don't know.

'The big roadblock will be: Who gets to classify and what are the criteria?'

Demicco also said that while opposes censorship in general, 'What I do find objectionable is these young kids playing video games, which are incredibly violent.'

He said young people who are already 'reclusive' and 'lock themselves in their room playing these games become socially desensitized. Life becomes a game. 'They can go out and actuate this behavior in real life, and it doesn't have the impact it would have on most people.'

Demicco said that while there may be many areas to address in the wake of the tragedy, 'I'll tell you one thing: more than ever people need to be able to have a means to defend themselves.'

He said calls for a ban on socalled assault weapons by three members of the state's congressional delegation 'is the easiest position for them to take. It takes the least amount of effort and thinking.'

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