Sales of Weapon Used in Carnage Reportedly Increasing

Times Staff Writer

California gun dealers are reporting an increase in sales of the AK-47 assault rifle following Tuesday’s killing of five children at a Stockton elementary school and calls by state officials for a ban on the weapons.

“Our sales have doubled,” said Tom Noroian, manager of Art’s Guns in Reseda. “Whatever we can get we put on the shelves. The wholesalers are trying to get all they can because they’re sold out too.” Noroian said the last five rifles his store had in stock were sold Friday.

State Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) said last week that he would introduce a bill to ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons, and Gov. George Deukmejian called Thursday for an extension of the state’s 15-day waiting period for handgun purchases to cover all firearms, including assault rifles.

“People are under the impression that the gun is going to be banned,” said Al Campbell, general manager of Western Surplus in South-Central Los Angeles. “The demand is so great we’re trying to replace and fill up our stock.”


‘Outselling’ Uzi

Campbell said the AK-47 is outselling another popular assault rifle, the Israeli-made Uzi, 2 to 1.

“The disaster on the school grounds brought (the AK-47) to public attention,” Campbell said. “Everyone is impressed by how much damage that firearm can do in such a short period of time. A lot of people hadn’t heard about it before.”

Law enforcement officials estimate that more than 80,000 Chinese replicas of the Soviet-designed weapon have been imported into the United States in the last several years.

Like all military assault rifles, the AK-47 is a combination of a machine gun and a traditional rifle, a light weapon that can fire 30-caliber bullets accurately at a range of about 150 yards.

“It’s an excellent weapon, and one of the world’s finest and still inexpensive,” said Steve Cotter, owner of Hilldale Discount Warehouse Guns in Simi Valley. Cotter said he sells the AK-47 for about $350, “complete with three magazines, oiler and cleaning kit.”

Flood of Calls

Even dealers who did not report an increase in sales of the assault rifle Saturday said they had been flooded with calls from gun enthusiasts concerned that the weapon may be outlawed.

“People have been calling, worried that something might happen,” said Jeff Brodsky, manager of Southern California Guns in San Diego. “The weapons in question are simply sporting arms. Most of the guns like that are sold to good, honest people.”

The National Rifle Assn. opposes limits on the sale of semiautomatic weapons, as do most gun dealers.

“The first thing they’re going to do is to ban semiautomatic weapons, then rifles and shotguns and then handguns” said Paul Claxton, manager of the War Bunker and Hobbies Shop in Bakersfield. “As soon as they do that I’m going to Nevada”

Claxton said, however, that he did not believe the weapons would ever be banned. “All they’ve done is drive up my sales, which is fine with me.”

At least one Southern California gun dealer has said he will no longer sell the AK-47 or any other military assault weapon. Randy Garell, head of Grant Boys, one of the largest gun stores in Orange County, said Friday that he will stop selling the weapons because he was “greatly disturbed” by the Stockton killings.

Sales of assault weapons are opposed by most law enforcement agencies.

“My personal feeling is all assault rifles should be taken off the market,” said Sgt. Jim Leinen of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division. “They’re not good for hunting. They’re only good for dope dealers and other people to kill people. They’re military weapons and there’s no reason for civilians to have them.”