By Clint Riese
Forest Lake Times
The grim nationwide trend of public shootings has the country reflecting on a wide range of issues involving weapons, from the merits of stricter gun control to the pros and cons of arming teachers.
Meanwhile, with the spotlight on such issues, Americans are arming themselves at a rapid pace. Nationwide numbers on gun sales back up the notion that buyers are speculating that potential legislation could restrict access in the near future.
“They want to get it, I guess, while they can,” said Ben Oliver, who owns Lakes Trading Company in Forest Lake.
Oliver’s gun buy-sell-trade and repair business at 95 SW Eighth Ave. has seen the rush.
“I think part of it is what people are hearing on the news, and part of it could’ve been Christmas, but business is brisk,” he said, noting that sales are up across the board.
There may be more behind the surge than the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. where a gunman killed 27 people, including 20 students, before taking his own life.
Business at Lakes Trading Company was up from 2011 well before the Newtown tragedy.
“It was ramping up anyway,” Oliver said.
Similar numbers on a large scale indicate that a recent string of high-profile killing sprees are fueling the rush to buy arms. Several other shootings attracted national attention earlier in 2012: a dozen people were killed and 50 wounded in a Colorado movie theater in July, six were killed at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August, and a gunman killed his boss and five others at a Minneapolis factory in September.
The Forest Lake Police Department has handled a spike in permit to purchase applications since mid-December. The department was seeing about five applications per week until lately, said Capt. Greg Weiss.
Over the last three weeks, 53 applications have been filed.
Residents of townships and some smaller cities must apply with their county. Both Washington and Chisago counties also report increases in December. Counting both permits to purchase and permits to carry, Chisago County accepted 206 applications last month compared to 81 in December of 2011.
The number of Washington County permit to purchase applicants jumped from 87 in December of 2011 to 170 in December of 2012. Permit to carry applications rose from 160 to 308 in the same time periods.
The city and county numbers also show a rise in interest before last December. In Washington County, combined November 2012 applications totaled 259 compared to 174 a year earlier.
FLPD processed 300 permit to purchase applications in 2012 compared to 187 in 2011, so numbers were already higher before the recent rush.
Gun shoppers may be wise to act now. A USA Today/Gallup poll released Dec. 27 shows public sentiment toward gun control changed rapidly in one year. In the wake of the Newtown incident, 58 percent of Americans favor strengthening the laws covering the sale of firearms, up from 43 percent in 2011. The support for stricter gun laws is the highest the polling company has measured since early 2004.
Also, 47 percent of Americans favor passing new guns laws, compared to 35 percent in 2011.
However, polls also show a steep rise in opposition to a broad ban on handguns. Perhaps due to a desire for the ability to defend themselves, a record-high 74 percent of Americans would oppose a law banning possession of handguns by anyone other than police or other authorized persons.