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Kadner: Sandy Hook school massacre creates boom in gun sales

Fred Lutger owner Freddie Bear Sports holds Windham Weaponry WW-15 near Rock River Arms LAR-15 (foreground) Thursday Dec. 27 2012

Fred Lutger, owner of Freddie Bear Sports, holds a Windham Weaponry WW-15 near a Rock River Arms LAR-15 (foreground) Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at 17250 S. Oak Park Ave. in Tinley Park. Lutger said he has sold as many AR-15s in one week as he had in a year since the shootings at Sandy Hook. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:28AM



Talk of a national ban on assault rifles has resulted in a sales boom of AR-15 and AK-47 weapons at Freddie Bear Sports in Tinley Park.

“I sold more of those guns in one week than I normally sell in a year,” said Fred Lutger, owner of the gun shop.

The guns usually sell for between $750 and $3,000, but Lutger said the increased demand has nearly doubled the price nationwide.

The increased sales at Freddie Bear are being mirrored at gun shops and gun shows across the country.

“I don’t think it’s so much people speculating” that they’ll be able to resell the guns at a profit if a ban is passed, Lutger said, “as it is that this is the gun many people always dreamed of owning and they want to buy one before they’re not available.”

The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16 created for the military.

In business for 34 years at the same location at 17250 S. Oak Park Ave., Lutger said he has lived through campaigns to ban weapons before and expects this one to subside just like the rest.

“Illinois is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow concealed carry, but now an appellate court has said it has to join the other 49 states,” Lutger said. “So I’m not worried about banning guns. It’s the law of the land, it’s in the Constitution, and I don’t even think they’ll get an assault ban passed in Congress.”

A Vietnam War veteran, Lutger described himself as a law-abiding citizen who would never sell a firearm to someone who didn’t meet all the legal requirements.

“The problem isn’t guns, the problem is people and how they use those guns,” he said.

“People kill people using cars every day and no one blames the cars. No one says we have to ban cars.

“People keep talking about passing laws to restrict gun ownership, but criminals don’t care about the law and that’s part of the problem,” Lutger continued.

“If you want to pass a law to stop gun violence, make it a mandatory 25 years in prison without parole for anyone who points a gun at another human being in a threatening manner.

“That would make a criminal think twice about ever using a gun to hold up a liquor store or gas station. That would make the gangbangers think before they ever point a gun at someone in the street.

“In most of the cases where you see someone use a gun in a crime, they’ve been arrested for that before, get out of prison, and do it again.”

While Lutger’s opposition to a ban on assault rifles might seem obvious given his monetary interest, a USA Today/Gallup Poll released this week showed that while 58 percent of Americans now say they favor stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., 51 percent said they oppose a ban on assault weapons.

That’s the same number Gallup reported in October 2011, the last time it surveyed the assault weapons ban.

I can’t explain it, although Lutger may have touched on one of the reasons people haven’t changed their perception.

“I blame the mother of the gunman in Sandy Hook because she should have kept those guns locked up,” Lutger said. “She knew her son had a problem and still allowed him access to guns.”

Lutger noted that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer, was turned away when he tried to buy a rifle at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store days before he murdered 20 students and six faculty members at the school.

“The laws worked the way they were supposed to work,” Lutger said. “It was his own mother that failed, not the gun laws.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked about creating some sort of regional law enforcement task force to crack down on suburban gun store owners (there are no gun shops in Chicago).

“I thought he was elected to be mayor of Chicago, not dictator of Illinois,” Lutger said.

“But I’ve been through that before, too. Mayor Daley, back when he had a ban on guns in Chicago, had undercover cops coming to suburban gun stores to see if they could obtain guns illegally.

“They came in here. I refused to sell them a gun. I don’t think they ever bought a gun illegally in any of the suburban gun shops.

“I don’t let anyone even touch a gun in this store unless they have a FOID (firearm owner’s identification) card issued by the state. That means they’ve passed a criminal and mental background check.”

But Illinois residents don’t need to show a FOID card to buy — or shoot — a gun in an Indiana gun store.

“Heck, a guy can drive a mile south of here and go to a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Will County and buy a gun without paying the $25 tax Cook County just passed on gun sales,” Lutger said.

“They just keep making it harder for us to do business in Cook County and make it easier for my competition down the street to steal customers.”

At one point, Cook County commissioners were contemplating a tax on bullets.

“I went down there to testify and one of the (commissioners) said if street gang members had to pay 5 cents for each bullet they used they would take more time to aim and wouldn’t spray the streets with so many bullets,” Lutger said.

“Isn’t that just the stupidest thing you ever heard come out of anybody’s mouth?”

The bullet tax didn’t pass. The gun tax did.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, I think people are looking for a way to respond to such violence. The assault gun ban seems like the most direct approach.

“But the next guy could come in with a shotgun and do just as much damage,” Lutger said.

And as we’ve seen with the economy, politicians aren’t good at finding solutions to complex problems.

There are millions of guns in the hands of Americans. Because of talk about the assault weapons ban, thousands more have been sold.

It’s been a boon to the gun shops and gun manufacturers.

I doubt anyone expected that result from a school massacre.



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