Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard in advance of an expected decision by the grand jury in the police shooting death of suspected Ferguson robber Michael Brown, and gun shops in the St. Louis area are selling everything they can get their hands on.
Metro Shooting Supplies, in an area near the city’s main airport, reports selling two to three times more weapons than usual in recent weeks — an average of 30 to 50 guns each day — while the jury prepares to conclude its three-month review of the case that sparked looting and weeks of sometimes-violent protests in August.
“We’re selling everything that’s not nailed down,” owner Steven King said. “Police aren’t going to be able to protect every single individual. If you don’t prepare yourself and get ready for the worst, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
Other gun dealers say their sales spikes are comparable to the increases seen soon after Brown’s death on Aug. 9.
“I’ve probably sold more guns this past month than all of last year,” said County Guns owner Adam Weinstein, who fended off looters last summer at his storefront on West Florissant Avenue, the roadway that was the scene of many nightly protests. Weinstein stood guard over his business with an assault rifle and pistol.
The store has since moved out of Ferguson — in part because of concerns about potential further violence.
Area Walmarts still have ammunition pulled from the floor and store in a secure location in the back for fears of rioting and looting, but are still doing brisk business of what little ammunition that they can keep in stock.
The concerns of gun dealers in the area is that a majority of their customers since August are first-time gun buyers, most of whom have little to no training. Private lessons, “first steps” classes, and concealed carry classes in the region are booked into the middle of next year.
The combination of a large number of under-trained first-time shooters and the potential violence from agitators and criminals hidden among “mostly peaceful” protesters creates a heightened opportunity for gun theft, increases the possibility of negligent shootings, and poses the risk more shootings that might not be legally justifiable by panicked and untrained new gun owners that may not know the laws of self-defense.
Agitators would be wise to stay within the law, and avoid rioting and looting that might spill into residential areas, where the “rules of engagement” vary with the skills, competence, and fears of residents, and are far more liberal than those constraining police officers.
Put bluntly, “you loot, we shoot” is the prevailing sentiment among most homeowners and many business owners.
A grand jury decision could come at any time.