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Impulse buy?

• Dec 21, 2015 at 10:00 AM

An increase in gun sales following the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, Calif., has trickled into the Tri-Cities, but not on a large scale, according to local gun shop owners.

Renegade River owner Mike Hewitt said sales at his Nunica store are up a little higher than usual, probably due to the attacks and President Obama’s comments on firearm regulation. November, December and January are the months with the highest sales of firearms anyway, but the recent incidents have probably had some impact, he said. 

Hewitt believes sales are also up because of his recent move from the Village of Spring Lake to the strip mall adjacent to I-96 and the new M-231 highway.

At Felix’s Marina and Guns, 14023 Green St. in Robinson Township, the 85-year-old owner, Felix Pytlinske, said business remains steady. What has increased is the concern of the people about the possible elimination of some guns, availability and process of getting the guns, he said.

Pytlinske said he has more than 700 guns in the store that sits on the edge of Stearns Bayou. They are all used, though some are from collections and have never been shot, he said.

The Robinson Township store also has one of the biggest and most unique collections of knives in the state, he noted, adding that if a person can’t get to a gun, he can always use a knife.

“It doesn’t make any difference, whether it’s guns or knives or sticks or stones, or whatever,” Pytlinske said. “It all depends on the attitude of the people.”

Nunica resident Mike Fortenbacher looked over a handgun he was purchasing recently at Renegade River. He waited patiently and talked to other customers while waiting for a background check to be completed, via the FBI database, by Hewitt.

“I’m buying a handgun for my peace of mind,” Fortenbacher said.

Once approved, Fortenbacher will get a handgun permit that shows his weapon is registered in Michigan.

The things that can keep someone from getting a gun permit are domestic violence, drunken driving or any felony conviction. A prohibited person is also someone who has unlawfully used or is addicted to drugs, has been declared mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution, has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces, or has renounced his U.S. citizenship, among other reasons.

Local real estate agent Sandy Rezny said she picked up a gun after she heard about a Realtor murdered when she went to show a house in a rural area.

“That was kind of the last straw,” Rezny said. “... I go to open houses, I list homes in rural areas, I travel a lot. I just decided it was time to protect myself.”

Rezny said she and a friend participated in a class so they could carry a concealed weapon. They also took private lessons on handling and shooting their guns. That was just over a year ago.

“There where 12 people in the class and seven of them were Realtors,” she said. “There’s a level of uncertainty in what we do.”

Rezny said she does carry her gun, but “God forbid I ever have to use it,” she said.

Adam Zeigler was also in Renegade River recently, “just looking.”  The 23-year-old Nunica man said he collects guns and sport-shoots with his father and his girlfriend. Shooting has been a family thing for him. 

“My dad taught me to shoot the first year I could go hunting,” Zeigler said. “We can bring everyone together and go shooting.”

Zeigler said he’s noticed over the years that people who have not been brought up around guns are usually against them.

Hewitt agreed. It’s not like years ago when every school had a gun club and students brought their guns to school and put them in their lockers until it was time for their activity, the gun shop owner said.

While Hewitt stressed education and understanding the whys of attacks around the world, Pytlinske stressed stronger enforcement was needed.

“The only answer is not in education,” Pytlinske said. “The nuts don’t care what the laws are.”

The shootings across the country around the world have not really had an impact on local criminal activity, Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said.

“What we see is a rise in the level of public apprehension regarding safety and security,” he explained.

This comes from contact with community members and it comes up much more frequently after an incident of that magnitude, the chief said.

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