Locals gunning for security

Ryan Carter

SOUTH SAN FERNANDO DISTRICT -- As the retaliatory rhetoric builds

against the alleged masterminds of Sept. 11's terrorist attacks on the

East Coast, many have found the confines of Firing Line Indoor Shooting

Range, one of only four civilian firing ranges in the Valley, a place to

update their gun skills and hone their sense of security.

Since the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania,

staff at the range have seen an increase in people taking target practice

at its 28 shooting positions.

"We're definitely seeing an increase," said Jim Ness, a manager at the

range.

On one recent Saturday, practice shooters almost filled all of the

practice positions, a rare occurrence, Ness said.

"It's just that people are becoming aware that the potential exists

for them to be vulnerable," Ness said. "When people feel that way, they

like to have a measure of security of their own."

Ness said he's seen about a 20% increase in customers. Orders of guns

from catalogs were also up, Ness said.

"There is this extra feeling of 'Let's dust things off a little bit,"'

Ness said.

Ness has seen the phenomenon before. Similar runs on practice shooting

were made after the Los Angeles riots in 1992, the Northridge earthquake

in 1994 and the days when Richard Ramirez, the so-called "Night-Stalker,"

terrorized Los Angeles in the mid-1980s.

Runs on gas masks and heightened vigilance by gun owners after such

events is, to an extent, reasonable, suggested Edward Sampson, a social

psychology professor at Cal State Northridge.

"It's not an unusual response to get prepared," Sampson said. "Some

ran out and bought gas masks while others sharpened their prowess with

guns. People are fearful and feeling vulnerable for their loved ones."

Increased target practice, as well as buying guns and emergency items,

is driven by fear of local terrorism and a vague, generalized anxiety,

Sampson said.

It's rational to recognize one's vulnerability, Sampson said. But it's

dangerous when, motivated by fear, people strike out at other people, he

said.

Local gun stores haven't seen a run on guns but have seen slight rises

in ammunition purchases since the attacks.

Fears that the United States may go to war and a corresponding stop in

ammunition sales to civilians has driven the increase, a salesman at

Burbank's Gun Country said.

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