In the final hours before the state imposed new gun restrictions Tuesday, gun shops across the state were flooded with last-chance buyers.
“I’m out of just about everything,” said John Havlick, owner of Frank’s Guns on Route 30 north of Amsterdam. “The Glocks, the Rugers, the AR-15s — even my suppliers are out of everything.”
The legislation — which was approved Monday night by the state Senate and the Assembly on Tuesday, then signed into law Tuesday afternoon by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — introduces a new ban on rifles with any feature designated as being from an assault weapon and lowers the legal magazine capacity from 10 to seven rounds.
Owners of assault rifles and handguns with 10-round clips are grandfathered in, but new models cannot be legally sold after the legislation is finally approved. Faced with the chance of never owning such firearms, locals filled Frank’s Guns looking over his supply and making conversation with a palpable excitement.
“Why are they called assault weapons?” asked one man buying a few boxes of ammunition. “They should be called protection.”
Frank’s wasn’t the only packed gun shop.
“We’re really busy right now,” said Jim Griffin of Target Sports in Rotterdam, “for all the wrong reasons.”
Target was out of all the guns in question, but people were still coming in.
“They’re buying whatever they can at this point,” Griffin said. “After this law, where will it stop?”
Just up the road in Rotterdam, Pat Popolizio of Taylor and Vadney Sporting Goods said, “I’m swamped. Swamped.”
He only had time to say he was selling “a lot of everything but especially military-style rifles,” before returning to his customers.
Havlick had a bit more time to talk, as the in-demand items were pretty much gone from his store.
“I sold 75 assault rifles in two days,” he said.
The very last one hung on the wall, a used model on sale for more than $2,000. He said the term “assault rifle” is rather generic. His were variants of the AR-15, which would be largely prohibited under the new legislation.
He explained that the new assault rifle ban diminishes the number of military-style features a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine can have. For instance, his AR-15s were allowed to have a forward pistol grip or a collapsible stock under the original legislation, but not both. The new law would disallow both features.
“Just about all assault rifles have those forward pistol grips,” he said. “So I won’t be able to sell them anymore.”
But that’s not actually his largest concern; he’s more worried about the decreased clip size. Semiautomatic weapons, which include many handguns, as well as assault rifles, can no longer be sold with the 10-round clips that are common nationwide. Current owners of such guns will be allowed to just put seven rounds into their existing 10-round clips, but new guns will need to be sold with the smaller clips.
“If you’re in Glock’s shoes,” Havlick said, “you’re not going to build a whole new machine just for New York. You’re just going to sell to the rest of the country.”
In the past three weeks, nearly all of his semiautomatic handguns were bought out.
“They used to be almost on top of each other in there,” he said, motioning to the case, “now there are hardly any left.”
He may have sold twice as many guns as usual over the last month or so, but over the long haul, he said the new law will cut his revenues by 40 percent.
“It’s really going to hurt the bottom line,” he said, adding that every other gun dealer in the state is in the same boat.