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Poll Finds That More Americans Back Gun Rights Than Stronger Controls
Two years after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., a majority of Americans say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns than for the government to limit access to firearms, a Pew Research Center survey conducted this month found.

The center said that it was the first time in two decades of its surveys on attitudes about firearms that a majority of Americans had expressed more support for gun ownership rights than for gun control.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said it was more important to protect gun ownership rights, and 46 percent said the priority should be controlled access to firearms.

In a 2000 Pew survey, 29 percent chose gun rights over gun control, and in a 2013 survey conducted a month after the Newtown shooting, 45 percent favored gun rights.

“To some extent, this is the continuation of a trend,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center. “It may be that Newtown stunted that trend to some extent.”

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown before killing himself in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

The Pew poll on firearms, conducted in early December, also found that African-Americans have become increasingly likely to believe that firearm ownership does more to protect people than it does to threaten an individual’s safety, even as they continue to support gun control measures.

When asked in 2012, 29 percent of African-Americans said guns offered people protection rather than exposed them to greater danger, but in this year’s survey, the number of African-Americans who viewed firearms as offering more personal safety nearly doubled to 54 percent.

By contrast, the views of whites who believe guns are more likely to provide personal protection have changed more modestly — rising to 62 percent this year from 54 percent in 2012, the poll found.

Over all, 57 percent of Americans said gun ownership was more helpful in protecting people from becoming victims of crime, and 38 percent said it did more to endanger one’s safety.

But in the period immediately after Newtown, 48 percent had said firearms do more to protect people, and 37 percent had said guns put people at risk.

Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said the survey’s questions might not have been precise enough to provide a complete picture of the issue.

“Pew’s question presents one side emphasizing the protection of individual rights versus restricting gun ownership,” Dr. Webster said. “The question’s implicit and incorrect assumption is that regulations of gun sales infringe on gun owners’ rights and control their ability to own guns. The reality is that the vast majority of gun laws restrict the ability of criminals and other dangerous people to get guns, and place minimal burdens on potential gun purchasers such as undergoing a background check.”

The nationwide survey was conducted Dec. 3 to 7 with 1,507 adults using landlines and cellphones and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for all respondents. For African-Americans, the error margin is plus or minus 10 points.

By: Timothy Williams, The New York Times

Florida Sees Surge in Holiday Gun Shopping

Florida gun dealers saw a sharp increase in sales as shoppers flooded stores the day after Thanksgiving.

With 8,300 background checks conducted Nov. 28, the traditional start of the holiday shopping period, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recorded the third-busiest day ever for gun sales in the state, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said.

The Nov. 28 purchases trailed only the sales for two days in December 2012, which came after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Bailey said.

"We did roughly 23,000 sales Thanksgiving week," Bailey said Tuesday after addressing the Florida Cabinet. "On a normal week, we do about 14,000 background investigations on those sales."

The boost in sales followed the Nov 24 announcement that a grand jury would not indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, a decision that touched off widespread protests. Also the increase came after Florida State University graduate Myron May opened fire Nov. 20 in the lobby of the school's Strozier Library, wounding three people before being fatally shot by police.

Bailey called the spurt in sales a product of the traditionally busy shopping day.

"I can tell you Newtown had a dramatic increase," Bailey said. "It's too early for me to say if Ferguson has had an increase or not."

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer deferred comment when asked about the reasons for the boost in sales.

"The American people strongly believe in their God given right to self defense and know that they are responsible for their own safety and security," Hammer said in an email.

Mark Folmar, owner of Folmar's Gun and Pawn in Tallahassee, said Wednesday that he hasn't heard any of his customers say they were buying guns due to Ferguson or the Florida State University shooting.

Folmar added that his customers typically buy guns at the holiday season and at the start of hunting season.

"The majority of our gun sales are to people who already own guns," Folmar said. "They are the biggest market because they like them. The person who owns three is just as likely to buy a fourth as the person who is going to buy a first one."

About 3 percent of people applying for gun purchases in Florida are initially denied while at the retailer, Bailey said. However, many of those individuals are eventually able to purchase weapons after providing additional information, he said.

Bailey's comments came as the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence released a report that said background checks on gun purchases have blocked 2.4 million sales to dangerous people since the inception of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

"Brady background checks save lives. Brady estimates that they have blocked some 358 purchases every day to dangerous people," Brian Malte, Senior national policy director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a release. "Unfortunately, in the majority of states, criminals and other people not allowed to own or buy guns legally are still able to avoid background checks by making purchases online or at gun shows."

Bailey said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been able to cut the time to conduct background checks.

The on-hold time was about 10 minutes in the days after Sandy Hook. For the Nov. 28 sales, the background check time was down to about 1 minute due to legislatively approved staffing increases and the introduction of an online system for retailers to file applications, Bailey said.

As of Nov. 30, there were 1.337 million concealed-weapon or firearm licenses issued in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state went over the 1 million mark in December 2012, becoming the first state in the nation to surpass that figure.

By: Jim Turner and Tom Urban, Jacksonville Business Journal

New Gun Range near Atlantic Station Preaches Safety, Inclusion
The first sign that Stoddard's Range and Guns is a different kind of shooting range is the electric car hook-ups out front. And that the owners of the new Bishop Street gun range in Loring Heights, which opened its doors on Dec. 4, are hoping to attract food trucks to its premise.

"You can come on your lunch hour, shoot for 30 minutes, and grab a fish taco," says Alice Baye, wife of co-owner Ken Baye.

The food trucks aren't visiting the location near Atlantic Station yet. But you get the idea: Stoddard's, one of the city's only public gun ranges, isn't just aiming to be a store. The owners want to make the location a recreational facility that caters to a wide range of people.

The 38,000-square-foot store has 24 gun-range bays. Its massive weapons selection will eventually include full-auto machine guns available for qualified customers to rent. There's a bank of demilled handguns anchored with steel cables that you can handle at your leisure, just like model gadgets at a electronics store, before buying new or used weapons. There's a specialty store within the facility for high-end gun maker Beretta that sells everything from shotguns to apparel. A furnished patio offers a place to hang out, complete with a dramatic skyline view.

Ken Baye acknowledges Stoddard's won't be popular with all Atlantans. In fact, the gun range faced opposition early on from some neighborhood residents. Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents Loring Heights, voiced concerns also expressed by some residents, during its proposal. The neighborhood association president at the time told Creative Loafing that he thought some issues centered on the larger national debate about guns. Other individuals were concerned about the safety of children. Meanwhile, some residents thought the presence of law-enforcement officers could make the community safer, bring jobs, and increase foot traffic.

Adrean's skepticism prompted her to propose revisions to the city's legislation regulating new gun ranges, which she says hadn't been revisited in decades. Under her ordinance, gun-range owners must now apply for a permit every year, similar to the way pawn shops and package stores operate. They must also be located more than 800 feet away from homes, schools, parks, and other locations.

The push didn't affect Stoddard's, but will apply to future facilities. Adrean declined comment last week about the gun range's opening and told CL she has yet to visit the location. She says she wants to see how it deals with "noise abatement or any other concerning issues" that were discussed during the planning stages.

The Atlanta location is Stoddard's second facility in the metro area. The first location opened in Douglasville in 2011. Both locations, Ken says, offer people a safe place to enjoy their right to bear their firearms.

"It's [like] bowling for a lot of people," Ken says.

Michael Halbreich, a former lawyer, says he started Stoddard's after the Midtown resident was mocked at another gun shop for not knowing the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic. So he opened his own range and persuaded Ken, also a former attorney, to join him in creating a place that could appeal to gun-toters of all experience levels.

The co-owners say they want to make Stoddard's inclusive. You'll find police officers completing weapons certification, professional marksmen practicing, and first-timers learning how to safely handle a gun. The facilities are wheelchair accessible with adjustable shooting range benches. And perhaps soon you can consume a fresh taco after firing rounds.

By: John Ruch, Creative Loafing Atlanta