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As new laws loom, business booms for Modesto-area gun shops

A semi-automatic FN Scar is available at Called2Arms gun shop in Modesto on Tuesday.
A semi-automatic FN Scar is available at Called2Arms gun shop in Modesto on Tuesday. aalfaro@modbee.com

Gun shops have been swamped in advance of Wednesday’s cutoff date to buy guns and gun parts that won’t legally be sold in California once the new year starts.

“We’ll have a line of 20 when we open tomorrow morning,” an employee at the Called2Arms store in north Modesto said Tuesday afternoon.

The Bangs Avenue business is expecting “the last batch” of maybe 15 AR rifles and 50 lower receivers Wednesday afternoon, said manager Kacey Foster. The receiver is what houses the operating parts of a firearm and carries the serial number.

Modesto resident John Stephens visited Called2Arms on Tuesday, looking to buy an AR rifle or a lower receiver. “To complete his collection,” said his wife, Candy.

He was striking out, already having visited Sierra Arms Corp. on North Carpenter Road in Modesto and Full Throttle Motorcycle & Gun Shop on Pirrone Road in Salida.

On July 1, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation expanding California’s decades-old ban on assault weapons and regulating ammunition sales.

AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms sold. The “AR” stands for ArmaLite rifle, the company that developed it in the 1950s. It does not stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle.”

Acting less than a day after the Democrat-controlled Legislature moved the measures to his desk, Brown signed bills banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles with magazines that can be detached by pressing a button, as well as banning possession of high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

He also signed legislation subjecting people who buy ammunition to a background check.

Three or four months ago, you could buy a whole rifle for $700 or $800, Stephens said outside Called2Arms. As demand has grown with the approach of the new year, prices have soared and now a receiver alone might set you back that much, he said.

Called2Arms employee Randall Cheek said “stripped” lower receivers are hot commodities because they can be had for about $100. A stripped receiver has no internal parts and must be completed with a trigger assembly, magazine catch, bolt catch and more.

Phone calls to several gun shops in Stanislaus County on Tuesday morning found most of them too busy to talk, or not interested. At Full Throttle, owner Tommy Loredo took time to talk, though he said business this month has been nearly three times that of a normal December, a month “normally good for gun sales in general.”

We’ll move on, focus on what we can get and what we can do, not what we can’t. This chapter is closing on the 31st. Hopefully, someday we can change the laws again.

Tommy Loredo, Full Throttle Motorcycle & Gun Shop in Salida, on the impact of the changing gun laws to his business

“People definitely are concerned about the laws changing and their rights to acquire the weapons they want,” he said. “The law affects the bullet button (which according to an article on Guns.com is a device that requires a tool to remove an otherwise fixed magazine from a semiautomatic rifle), so any weapon with it has been extremely hot, and the price level has increased.”

At Alquist Arms in Turlock, a man who answered the shop’s phone but declined to identify himself said, “Customers are just hating California more and more” because their Second Amendment rights are being infringed upon. “It’s like we’ve seceded from the Union here,” the man added.

Loredo agreed the United States should be united, and gun laws should be federal, rather than California going by its own rules. Asked about the mood of his customers, he said, “I don’t think they’re mad, but they have an urgency to get them while they can. ... It’s an adult’s version of whatever the hot holiday toy of the year is.”

Some customers are a bit panicky until they’ve secured the guns they want, said Called2Arms’ Cheek. Then they’re OK.

Loredo likened it to “picking up a new puppy.”

After Wednesday, shops expect to see a lull. Then they’ll be busy again Dec. 31 when the 10-day waiting period is over. There’s no time to waste, Foster said at Called2Arms, because shops must remove all affected inventory before Jan. 1. After Dec. 31, customers will be out of luck if they haven’t picked up their purchases.

“You must possess the weapon before the first,” Loredo said. Then, buyers have between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017, to register their weapons with the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

Laws taking effect

In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the following bills:

  • Assembly Bill 1511, by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, requiring that infrequent loans of a firearm be made only to family members.
  • Senate Bill 880, co-authored by Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, and Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Assembly Bill 1135, Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, amending the definition of assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles with magazines that can be detached with a bullet button.
  • Assembly Bill 1695, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, expanding the existing misdemeanor of making a false report to law enforcement to include that a firearm has been lost or stolen, and imposing a 10-year ban on owning a firearm for people convicted of making a false report.
  • Senate Bill 1235, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, creating a new regulatory framework for purchasing and selling ammunition.
  • Senate Bill 1446, Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, banning possession of high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
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