Long Island firearms dealers report an increase in business following Parkland tragedy

By Jonnathan Pulla and Nick Zararis

Days after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, several Long Island firing range and gun store owners have noticed an uptick in business in spite of national trends of the past 13 months.

The slight increase in firearm sales at five of the largest dealers in Suffolk County following the tragedy at Stoneman-Douglas high school bucks a national trend of decreasing gun sales and manufacturer stock prices. According to the FBI’s NICS system, that conducts the background checks for licensed firearm dealers, background checks are down overall since the Trump administration took office.

“It puts fear in the people who own guns because they don’t want to lose their guns,” Mike Marelli, the owner and head shooting coach at Long Island Top Shots said. “So what people do is they go out and buy more guns.”

After being in the business since age 12, Marelli, who’s now 35, has noticed changes in his customer population in the last years. “The percentage of people that come to the range to learn how to shoot to protect themselves is increasing while those looking to do it for sport has gone down,” Marelli said.

“Sales have gone up a little bit,” Craig Tufano, owner of Suffolk Shooting Corps, said. “I’m selling more of the legal ARs even though sales are generally down compared to the years prior to the Trump administration.”

All licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct a federal background check on anyone purchasing a gun. In New York State, a prospective pistol buyer must also qualify for a license which is issued at the county level. There is no license required for a rifle or shotgun.

“Aside from the background check, if I don’t have a good feeling about the person, I reserve the right to refuse a sale,” Cliff Pfleger, owner of Long Island Gun Source said. “If someone is acting weird, it’s ultimately my call.”

A political party that is more likely to pass gun control reform drives more sales following mass shooting events. When it seemed likely that Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidential election in 2016, background checks shot up by more than 600,000 in the final two months of the campaign according to the FBI’s NICS system.

Survivors of the tragedy have been the most vocal for reform and had the opportunity to meet with both state and federal lawmakers including President Trump himself.

“We should have common sense laws that protect us all,” Allyson Matwey, a Long Island resident who works for public special education, said. “The AR-15 shouldn’t be in civilian hands.”

Others believe that the suggestions from the two parties are too extreme in either direction.

“What’s being proposed is quite disturbing,” Daniel Salazar of Medford said. “The left wants to ban assault weapons and the right wants to arm every teacher…I don’t think either is the solution.”

Although there have been calls for reform, this spring the United States Senate is expected to vote on the concealed carry reciprocity act. If the bill, which already passed the house, were to pass, it would mandate that all states honor concealed carry permits regardless of where the permit was issued.