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Gun culture in the Verde Valley is healthy, and part of the reason is the many licensed gun dealers located right around the corner.

Perry Conrad, with Smoke ’n’ Guns off Main Street in Cottonwood, has said business has been steady and that defensive-style handguns have been the predominant purchase. He pointed to recent murders, “a lot,” he said, as the reason for those purchases.


Of those customers, Conrad said he’s been seeing a lot more female and older customers who have never owned a gun or are new to shooting. He said roughly half of them directly express interest in getting a conceal carry weapons permit. He said the store strongly recommends getting one, due to the clarification of the legal system throughout the class.

At Pawn Palace, off Calvary Way in Cottonwood, Rob Wager said smaller caliber handguns and AR-15s and other high-capacity rifles have been popular.

“Everybody believes in self defense,” he said.

Dan Hamilton, of Hamilton and Sons off Airpark Road in Cottonwood, and formerly in Sedona said more handguns and “black” rifles were being sold. Black rifles are called such due to often having black body styles that are more aggressive in appearance, an AR-15 being a common example.

Hamilton also said more women and first-time owners have been coming into the shop to buy guns. He said there was a large interest in permit applications and their need, citing reciprocity as a main factor.

“There’s no substitute for training,” Hamilton said. “A gun is like a fire extinguisher, you never know when you’re going to need it.”

Many of the buyers that Wager comes across come from out of state where gun laws are more harsh, particularly California. He said he’s had several people state that gun laws were the primary reason Arizona was chosen as a retirement destination.

Responsibility

Wager said that there have been instances where someone who may legally be able to buy a gun is denied.

He told a story of one man who came running into the store claiming people were after him. He frantically wanted to purchase a gun. As it turned out, the man had run away from a guidance clinic. Wager was able to keep the man there and eventually helped put the man into handcuffs.

A retired narcotics officer, Wager said that in addition to calling the police, he contacted the other local dealer to let them know what had happened. He said local dealers have excellent communication when it comes to safety issues.

Political Pot Shots

An underlying reason for some gun purchases is politics. Fear of gun control legislation that federally could outlaw firearms currently legal, with constitutional issues sure to be wrapped up in the courts possibly for years.

Recently, high-capacity rifles, “black” firearms and semi-automatic firearms in general have come under scrutiny.

Despite this, Conrad did say the amount of people who already own in the Verde Valley is so great that record sales of guns reported in other areas never occur to that degree locally. He did mention ammo prices have risen slightly.

Wager said his biggest fear politically would be a demographic shift like what he sees happening in Colorado, where a more pro-control population has moved in, making laws stricter in a place he saw as traditionally being more pro-gun.

Legal Desert Eagle

None of the shops had any criticism of their dealings with the FBI or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They said their end of the paperwork was fairly straightforward. However, examining the application for an over-the-counter firearm transaction, ATF Form 4473, the buyer must fill out two questions which seem confusing.

In questions 10.a and 10.b, applicants must provide their ethnicity and race, respectively. However, 10.a contains two check boxes for Hispanic or Latino, or Not Hispanic or Latino. The next question lists five races: American Indian or Alaska Native; Black or African American; White; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.

Therefore, someone who marks Hispanic or Latino in 10.a may not have an applicable race to identify. The category for race is also non-inclusive.

Unlike employment forms, which may ask but answers are not required, there is no option to leave these spaces blank.

One issue that has come up outside permanent gun dealer locations is the gun show and Internet loopholes. Wager said that he has heard a lot about these and clarified that there is no Internet loophole where private citizens can purchase guns online to be mailed directly to their homes. Internet sales must still be delivered to FFL dealers. In addition, sellers at a gun show are also FFL dealers, and Wager said in his experience, sales are made entirely to people who are already permit holders.

In Addition

Hamilton also has a special dealership license that allows him to sell guns and accessories beyond what normal federal firearm licenses allow. This is regulated by the ATF. Hamilton said he also has seen an uptick in his gun repair business which takes advantage of this status, though he said that his recent relocation from Sedona likely had something to do with it.

Another business which carries an advanced dealer license and specializes in suppressors is SRT Arms off Finnie Flat Road in Camp Verde. Owner Doug Melton said there is often a stigma about suppressors being used by spies and assassins, but the reality was that many purchase them for their health. Gun shots are loud enough to permanently affect hearing. They can also become painful to shoot as a result of recoil. Suppressors reduce both.

Recoil can go down 70 percent, he said. In addition, when hunting, most do not wear hearing protection. With a suppressed shot, depending on the type of gun, the sound can be reduced to the equivalent level between a pellet and BB gun.

“A typical .308 rifle is probably at 165 decibels, which is well above the 140 decibel limit that OSHA says for gunshots,” he said. With that shot suppressed, “you’re not going to blow out your ears.”

He said the .223 muzzle suppressors in titanium were the most popular for hunters, integral suppressors, those built around the barrel, were more popular for short range.

In addition, suppressors can improve accuracy, including adjusting for the first shot discharge, which has more oxygen in the barrel than in subsequent shots, increasing bullet yaw.

Suppressors work by slowing the rate of expansion of gases during the chemical reaction of the gun shot. This is how they improve both recoil and sound. However, without subsonic ammunition, the crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier will still be louder than the shot itself.

Call Smoke ’n’ Guns at 634-3216; Pawn Palace at 634-0898; Hamilton and Sons at 300-4561; and SRT Arms at 567-2588.

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