You don’t need to look very far to find an arms dealer in New York. One of the most highly rated stores in the city is located a short distance from Union Square in the center of Manhattan, in a basement between 20th Street and 5th Avenue. It looks like a hardware store, and in a certain sense, does carry all of the tools of the trade: cleaning kits, replacement parts for guns and rifles, ammunition and even gas masks. Of course, there are also weapons, from revolvers to assault rifles. Some can even be rented out, costing from $15 to $80 a day depending on the item.
Muffled shots are heard. The “West Side Rifle & Pistol Range” is famous for its highly rated target practice courses, also attended by many young women who visit the establishment to learn how to shoot. This is hardly surprising when you consider that the number of women in America who claim to have a weapon at home is around 43 percent of the population, according to a Gallup poll.
Here and in other gun stores in the city, questions above and beyond the information required to buy a gun are not welcome. Any reference to the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, considered by many to be second only to Sept. 11 as the greatest national tragedy, is rebuffed. “Ask the government,” is the response, or even, “Talk to the NRA,” the arms lobby that recently revived polemics by proposing the presence of armed agents in schools.
The laws around buying and selling weapons in New York are among the strictest in the country and store owners here are even more reluctant to talk than those in other states such as Oklahoma or Texas, where it is much easier to bring a shotgun home. One of the oldest gun stores in the city is Beretta U.S.A. on the Upper East Side, a store decorated in timber and stuffed animals, specializing in hunting weapons but also carrying a number of automatic rifles in full view. The only comment from the owner is a terse, “I’m sure nothing will change,” emphasized with a smile. Despite Obama’s desire to reintroduce a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the U.S., everyone knows that it will not be easy to pass this law.
Gun culture is so entrenched in the U.S. that the day after the Sandy Hook massacre, where 20 children and six adults were murdered, there was a sharp rise in gun sales in states such as Colorado. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation received 8,800 applications for firearm licenses. “These are unprecedented numbers,” commented Susan Medina, spokesperson for the bureau.
The background check process normally requires only a few minutes, but at the moment the wait is up to three days due to the high number of requests. According to the Denver Post, which reported the story, this is due both to the desire to defend oneself in case of attack and to the fear that President Obama will eventually succeed in changing the famous Second Amendment that allows every American citizen to carry arms.