"Gun safety" group calls on Uvalde gun store to stop selling AR-15s

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Some residents in Uvalde, Texas are encouraging the owner of a local gun shop to voluntarily ban the sale and transfer of AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles, but are promising protests outside the store if the owner doesn’t comply with their “request.”

The group Uvalde Strong for Gun Safety is targeting Oasis Outback and its owner Randy Klein for a reason; it was there that the killer who murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary legally purchased the rifle used in the attack. The group says it’s not trying to shut down Klein’s business, but it does want him to take action.

“The members of this group feel strongly about our second amendment rights and support your establishment’s commitment to selling guns and ammunition,” the petition reads. “However, we come to you today with a request.”

It continued, “Out of RESPECT for and in support of those affected by this catastrophe, we strongly urge you to cease the sale of assault rifles and the ammunition paired with them.”

The petition also asks for Klein to end the handling of gun transfers of this style of firearm from gun retail stores and manufacturers.

“Doing so will ensure that children across Uvalde County will never have to worry about a new purchase of this type of weapon,” the petition reads.

In a Wednesday meeting of the “Uvalde Strong for Gun Safety” group, a local pediatrician and gun safety advocate Roy Guerrero said that Klein will have 30 days to respond to the petition. Guerrero urged others to sign and mail in the petition themselves.

If Klein refuses to respond or meet with victims’ families, the residents behind the petition have several plans of action – including protests, media campaigns, and calls to legislators.

“I’m not here to hurt anyone’s business, but I am here to do the right thing,” Guerrero said.

With all due respect to Guerrero, it sounds like he’s perfectly willing to hurt Klein’s business if the gun shop owner doesn’t agree with his demands. What if Klein doesn’t think that adopting a one-store gun and ammo ban is the right thing to do?

Several meeting attendees and petitioners – including parents of Robb Elementary School victims – have said they are gun owners themselves and are pleading with business owners and local leaders to make a change.

“You can’t meet us at a happy medium? Just raising the age on [gun purchases]?” said Nikki Cross, the aunt of 10-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia and who is a gun owner herself. “I think that would be tremendous to start.”

Which is it; a complete ban on the sale of modern sporting rifles or adopting a store policy that says they won’t sell any firearms to adults younger than 21? If Klein adopts Cross’s idea as a “happy medium” but rejects Guerrero’s, will there be half as many of the promised protests?

Having lost a child of my own just a few months ago, I not only sympathize with these grieving families but I feel like I have some idea of the pain and loss that they’re living with on a daily basis. I can even buy their argument that they’re not opposed to the right to keep and bear arms, or at least they don’t believe they are. But they’re not just asking Klein to make these changes on their own; this petition is just part of a broader push by the group to turn their requests into law, and barring the sale of modern sporting rifles or even prohibiting adults under-21 from lawfully purchasing a firearm would indeed violate the Second Amendment. What it wouldn’t do, however, is prevent cowardly attacks like the one in Uvalde.

The best way to do that isn’t to try to restrict the right to keep and bear arms, but instead to bear witness when we see or hear disturbing behavior like the killer in Uvalde displayed for years beforehand. Instead of demanding a gun store owner stop selling the most popular rifle in the country, how about demanding a substantive response rather than a runaround from law enforcement, mental health, and public school officials when that disturbing behavior is reported? It might not garner as much media attention, but I believe it would do far more to save lives.