Large “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave” banners sit high on the walls above a small arsenal of guns in and behind the counter of Galesburg Guns Gear Ammo. Smaller rifles and accessories are displayed throughout the middle of the store. Inside, a young man is talking to a clerk about bipods and scopes for his newly purchased AR-50, a .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, national debates have exploded over restrictions on certain types of weapons and magazines. Should assault rifles be banned? What is an assault rifle? What types of magazines are acceptable? Some people want to ban the sale of guns altogether. As a result of this debate, gun shops all over the U.S. have seen a large increase in sales.
Galesburg Guns Gear Ammo is one of several gun shops in the Galesburg area that has experienced a surge in sales. The store sits inside of Galesburg Electric Industrial Supply Co. at 739 S. Henderson St. and has been selling guns for the past two years.
Preston Johnson, the owner of Galesburg Guns Gear Ammo, stands behind the counter in a blue and black flannel shirt. He has seen unusual sales situations since the recent tragedies, such as an 80-year old woman buying six guns and people buying guns to sell them for profit.
Johnson believes that the ban on guns is being taken a little too far. In light of the shooting and possible bans on guns Johnson thought that sales would go “through the roof,” and he was exactly right. In the three weeks that followed the shooting, his business sold the equivalent of gear that would have normally been sold in a four to five month period.
The most popular purchases are high capacity magazines and mostly semi-automatic weapons, such as pistols and AR rifles. Johnson has had customers who wanted 20-round magazines even when the order price went from $60 to $180. He has also had more weapon consignments, which is when a weapon is brought into the store to sell.
Johnson describes a recent situation about a rifle that he originally sold for $1,100.
“Right after the shooting a guy bought it for $1,600 and then came back and put in on my shelf for $2,200 with consignment.” This idea of “flipping” guns did not happen as often, but is now something that is being seen more frequently. People who do not even own guns are coming in to Johnson’s shop and buying weapons just to go and sell them for profit.
“They see it as an investment,” Johnson said.
In terms of the ongoing debates about gun control Johnson, who is politically independent, seemed to think that the issue needed to be looked at more closely. He explained that the statistics of people dying in car accidents were much higher than deaths from guns. Johnson acknowledges that the shooting in Connecticut was a tragedy but does not think peoples’ rights should be taken away.
“I have a daughter who is everything to me. If she died, it wouldn’t matter if it was a gun or a swimming accident, or whatever. I would still be unable to see her again. I still believe that people should have the right to defend themselves.”
In addition to this, he brought up a story about an elderly woman caught on a security camera fending off five armed robbers in her jewelry store. It only took a few shots to send the would-be thieves running.
“How would she have defended herself if she had not had that gun?” Johnson said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the AR-50 was used in the Newtown school shooting. It was not. We apologize for the error.