FORT WORTH, Texas — Concerns of a renewed push to ban assault weapons has led to a rush on guns at stores across North Texas.
Texas trails only Kentucky in the number of weapons sold. Gun sales — which were already strong this year — are now even stronger, several stores report.
“People are just scared the government is going to take away the weapons,” said Shane Hartzell as he left a north Fort Worth gun store Tuesday afternoon. “Especially here in Texas, we feel it’s a right to have our weapons.”
Fort Worth will be hosting two gun shows in the coming weeks. Both are bracing for larger than normal turnout.
“We are expecting big, big crowds,” said Gerald Bonner, manager of the Lone Star Gun Show, which will be held this weekend at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Center. It will feature 850 tables of vendors, some of whom are already reporting shortages, Bonner said.
“Ammunition is getting more and more scarce,” he added.
In the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy, some lawmakers — along with President Obama — are pushing for the return of an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Advocates said the law contained so many loopholes it was largely inadequate.
Still, the ban did outlaw some styles of semiautomatic weapons, similar to the one Adam Lanza used to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday.
The AR -15 — sold under many different names and variations — is considered the most popular rifle in America; it’s the civilian version of the military’s M-16 and M-4. It can be equipped with high-capacity magazines and rapidly fire high-velocity rounds that can pierce some body armor.
Fort Worth police bought dozens of that type of weapon in 2005, concerned that its officers were being outgunned by the criminals.
The rifle is not the only weapon used by mass shooters, but lawmakers worry it in particular can inflict a lot of damage, since it can be outfitted to quickly fire dozens of rounds.
The weapon’s supporters say the gun is misunderstood and wrongly blamed for the actions of a few deranged people.
Tim Robertson of Fort Worth bought the parts of an AR-15 on Tuesday so he can assemble the gun himself. He prefers it for self-defense in case of a home invasion.
“It’s part of the right we have in America to enjoy our weapons,” he said.
Several national chains, including Dicks Sporting Goods and Walmart, have stopped selling the weapon.
A statement on Dick’s website said it temporarily suspended sales during “this time of national mourning.”
Bonner, the gun show manager, said some independent stores are removing the gun for other reasons.
“They’re pulling the AR-15 off the shelves,” he said. “They don’t want to sell them at $1,000 when next month they’ll be $1,800.”