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Branford Gun Dealer: Sales Doubled

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BRANFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Thomas Imperati says in the three days since 26 people, including 20 children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, business at his Branford guns and historical collectibles store, The Hunter’s Shop, has at least doubled.

And Imperati doesn’t even sell to the public. His customers are gun dealers, who in turn sell the weapons to the public.

But that doesn’t stop him from having strong opinions about who should have guns and who shouldn’t. And strong feelings about the killings that occurred last Friday.

“I haven’t been able to sleep for three days, thinking about what this guy did,” said Imperati, referring to Adam Lanza, the young man police say was responsible for the killings and who had a developmental disorder. “There’s no … way he should have had access to a gun.”

Imperati, who has been in the firearms business for 30 years, isn’t in favor of more laws regulating the ownership and use of guns.

“The laws we have now are fine,” he said. “They just need to enforce them better.”

All across Connecticut, there is a heightened state of anxiety among those who own gun stores and firing ranges as well as those who own firearms or want to buy them in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.

At Autumn Gun Works in Goshen, owner Chris Marino said that anxiety hasn’t manifested itself in increased sales. But Marino said his customers are worried about the possibility of new gun laws being implemented.

“Watch the news and you can see it coming,” Marino said. “We had a national assault law that did nothing. There’s a lot of people that have an interest in modern sporting rifles, target shooting and clubs that’s used for hunting. People fear the government is going to rush into something to demonstrate their on the job.”

That fear appeared to manifest itself Monday at a pair of gun stores in Newington.

A pair of firearms dealers across the Berlin Turnpike from each other _ Hoffman’s Gun Center and BMG Guns and Ammo _ were packed with shoppers. The parking lot at Hoffman’s _ whose motto is “Guns For The Good Guys” _ was so full that cars line the full length of the store’s driveway and at least three or four pickup trucks were parked on the front lawn.

Some of the crowd at both stores might have been the normal volume of holiday shoppers. Hoffman’s staffers asked a reporter and photographer to leave.Using the events that occurred at Newtown as their platform, state and federal lawmakers increasingly are calling for tougher gun laws.

But John Longhi, owner of John’s Firearms in Torrington, said gun control will not solve the problem.

“American’s have the right to defend themselves and gun control is not the answer,” Longhi said. “There’s a lot of people that shouldn’t own a gun.”

Imperati said existing gun laws prohibit people with mental health problems from owning a gun. But he said the state-mandate background check often isn’t thorough enough.

Imperati has first-hand knowledge of the deadly consequences of what can happen when a mentally ill person gets a gun.

In January 2003, he sold a Winchester .30-caliber rifle to Jennifer O’Connor after she passed the background check, even though she was bipolar and manic depressive. Three months later, O’Connor shot her 4-year-old daughter Sara with the rifle.

After the incident, Imperati stopped selling guns altogether for a short time. Now, he sells only to dealers.

“Let someone else deal with the paperwork, let them deal with the guilt,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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