CNY firearms dealers challenge strict gun control laws

Gun rights supporters say measures won't stop mass shootings

With 325 deaths from mass shootings in the United States so far in 2018, here's what local gun enthusiasts have to say about the controversial issue.
Published: December 6, 2018
Bullets at local firearms dealer
Bullets come in all different shapes and sizes. From left to right: a single-shot rifle bullet, an AR-15’s bullet, and an animal hunting rifle bullet

“Why are we demonizing the AR-15, when all of these bullets can kill someone?” asks John Kleniatis, a firearms dealer in Syracuse.

Kleniatis does not agree with the “negative stigma” that surrounds the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, one that he says is commonly used by women at gun sporting events and is a beloved collector’s gun. What he didn’t mention is the way the AR-15 rifle has been used to commit almost every major mass shooting in the United States since the 2012 attack on an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Kleniatis believes that people should have the right to have any gun they choose, even if it is an AR-15.

“If they can pass a background check and go through a training course with the gun, they should be allowed to own the AR-15 if they want to,” he says.

But critics will ask: at what cost? At what point does the public’s safety in schools, bars, or churches outweigh someone’s hobby?

“If someone learned how to drive a bulldozer and ran over a bunch of kids, would we outlaw bulldozers? Of course not!” says David Steinberg, the owner of Ra-Lin Sporting Goods.

Pro-gun control activists would ask Steinberg about the amount of destruction a bulldozer has compared to an AR-15. The activists would argue that the semi-automatic rifle is much easier to acquire, carry, and can harm dozens or more people in a much quicker fashion. As of Dec. 5, data from the Gun Violence Archive says there have been 325 mass shootings in the United States. One of these mass shootings occurred on Midland Avenue in Syracuse, New York in September; 5 people were shot, including an 8-year-old girl.

All of the victims survived.

Usually, in the aftermath of these horrific mass shootings, the stock prices of gun companies soar because people worry that their favorite guns may soon become illegal. But in Syracuse, firearms dealers are noticing a different trend — the need for an increased sense of protection. Local arms dealers like Kleniatis and other gun store owners have noticed a spark in certain demographics coming in to buy personal guns to protect themselves with.

“I see a little bit of an increase in an older people — frail, can’t move as quickly, maybe haven’t carried one in 10 years — who now realize when they go to the mall or to dinner someplace. ‘I’m gonna have something with me, to protect myself and my family,’” says Steinberg, who has been working at Ra-Lin since he was a teenager.

Steinberg says he has noticed an increase in gun sales to demographics “more or less across the board,” but was surprised when he noticed a surge in sales among the older generations. Kleniatis, a firearms dealer and owner of Corinthian Arms LLC, has also encountered a similar increase. He says an increase in customers who are older citizens and women have been coming to him to purchase new guns or renew their gun licenses. “Customers that are older women, widows, 65 years old and up that feel more comfortable with a firearms because all of a sudden they can take care of themselves again,” says Kleniatis.

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Syracuse resident and local gun enthusiast Jon Law, who owns 13 different types of guns, says he feels the need for more protection because of the high number of mass shootings recently.

“I carry my gun 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The main purpose is that I do have a 4-year-old daughter and when I have it on me I feel a lot safer, and in a public place,” says Law. “With circumstances that have occurred, I feel I have a better shot of protecting myself, her and others around us.”

When asked about ways to decrease gun violence in the United States, Law said restrictive gun laws are not the answer. 

“If you make gun laws stricter, you are only making it harder for the ‘good guys’ to get guns, the ones that only want to collect them or use them for hunting. You won’t stop the guys that want to get a gun to go kill people,” says Law.

Kleniatis believes that the ‘bad guys’ will still find a way to get guns no matter what, and that “even if the government tries to take away all of the legal guns, there is no way for them to find all of the illegal guns.” Therefore, he also believes stricter gun laws would only cause good people harm.

Pro-gun control activists say that they are not trying to take away guns or infringe on anyone’s rights; they want to get the most destructive gun, the AR-15, off of the streets and are pushing for stricter background checks. Many perpetrators of mass shootings have been found to have given “warning signals” before the attack, including tweets, messages, and even a collection of guns in their possession. Activists are hoping that the government will make it more difficult for those individuals to acquire guns because they know that many have slipped through the cracks of the licensing process and obtained guns legally to commit these violent acts. 

But Law argues that the background checks in the State of New York are thorough enough already. He has at least ten handguns in his possession, and says he has first-hand experience of how complicated it can be to obtain one.

“Syracuse is not pro-gun. It’s very difficult really and the background checks that they have are very strenuous,” he says. “You have to have three references to sign off on your permit to begin with, and there are many restrictions on carrying, let alone just obtaining a gun.”