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Analysis: National news shapes local perceptions of gun ownership
Calls for more legislation and runs for ammo part of pattern
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A 9-millimeter hand gun rests on the counter at Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville. Gun sales at the store, like others across the country, saw a spike in sales following the 2012 Newtown shooting as the public made their gun purchases before perceived stricter laws were passed.

Hall County — Weapons Carry License

Applications filed

2013 and 2014: 6,069

First 7 months of 2015: 1,840

Licenses issued

2013: 3,190

2014: 2,860

2015: 1,672 (first 7 months)

Licenses denied

2013: 22

2014: 15

2015: 11 (first 7 months)

The frequency of mass shootings in recent years has revealed two cyclical patterns in the nation’s response to such tragedies: Renewed calls for gun control legislation and runs to increase firearm and ammo stocks.

“When there’s a shooting, the gun prohibitionists jump right on it,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, one of the most active gun lobbying organizations in the state. “By the time it takes the legislature to do anything, it’s died down … I don’t think they can sustain a drive to kill a constitutional right.”

The most recent example emerged when family members of a Virginia reporter, who was shot and killed on live television, said they would pursue gun control legislation in memory of the deceased.

The gulf in the gun control debate remains deep and wide in America.

Public polling shows support for new restrictions on firearms sales in some cases, and in others highlights the fear many have about the federal government infringing on the Second Amendment.

And while gun sales are nearly as robust as ever, shootings in movie theaters, schools, on the job and in churches have cast suspicious eyes in all directions.

“They’ve been very paranoid about thinking that all their guns were going to be taken away,” said Dee-Jay Beard, a Georgians for Gun Safety board member.

Background checks, the most effective method of tracking firearms sales, rose 40 percent in December 2012 after a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

“It cleared out this store,” said Kellie Weeks, owner of Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted 7.7 million background checks in the first eight months of 2015, the second-highest total on record following massive sales in 2013.

Weeks said she sold more than 7,000 guns last year alone, with women making a profound emergence in the customer market.

Gun sales are just one measure of the divide, however, which can also be seen in the number of weapons carry licenses issued.

Hall County, for example, has issued nearly 8,000 WCL permits since the beginning of 2013.

So where does the debate go from here?

Both sides appear ready to dig in when state lawmakers reconvene next year.

Henry said his organization is pushing to expand gun rights, including the number of places where those with a carry license can freely tote their firearm.

“The main place we would like to see opened up to license carry is the schools and colleges,” he added.

Beard said her group is focused on mandating firearms training, as well as implementing more background checks.

“We, of course, faced pretty stiff opposition, but we were able in most cases to keep some of the crazier gun laws from passing,” Beard said of her organization’s past, including its fight to keep guns out of schools and churches.

But Beard believes that dynamic has shifted a bit lately.  

“We’ve been sort of reacting to them, in some ways,” she said.

Gabe Shippy, who is spearheading the Hall County Democratic Party’s push to attract younger members, said gun control is an issue he is focusing on.

“The epidemic of gun violence in America is nothing less than a public health crisis and brings international embarrassment upon the United States,” Shippy said. “In my view, the only way to solve this problem is through robust and substantive legislation at the federal level.”

Shippy calls for reinstating a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, and said he opposes guns on campus.

“As a military veteran, I was trained to handle and use those weapons for combat scenarios on the battlefield,” he added. “That's exactly where those weapons belong, in combat zones for use against enemies of the United States, not on the streets of America.”

But gun control is a tough sell in Hall County. When asked to share their thoughts about the issue on The Times’ Facebook page, readers made no bones about displeasure for any attempt to rein in their right to bear arms.

“Gun control only works on law-abiding citizens,” wrote one reader. “Criminals don’t follow the law. Because of this, I oppose all forms of gun control.”

“Gun control … hell no — we need criminal control,” wrote another reader.

Hall County — Weapons Carry License

Applications filed

2013 and 2014: 6,069

First 7 months of 2015: 1,840

Licenses issued

2013: 3,190

2014: 2,860

2015: 1,672 (first 7 months)

Licenses denied

2013: 22

2014: 15

2015: 11 (first 7 months)

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