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Gun sales shoot up

Gun club sees higher interest in firearm training, 43% increase in membership

Posted: January 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Isaac Cerda, of Canyon Country, examines a Winchester SXP shotgun as he shops in the pro shop at the Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall on Monday.

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Gun sales are up, and so is the number of Santa Clarita Valley residents lining up for gun training, said the president of a local gun club.

As President Barack Obama ramps up his rhetoric on gun control, local people are vigorously exercising their right to bear arms.

Since last month’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and Obama’s call for a ban on assault weapons, local sales of firearms and enrollment for gun-handling classes at the Oak Tree Gun Club have increased dramatically, said the club’s president, Jim Mitchell.

“Our sales have increased dramatically in the last year or so,” Mitchell told The Signal on Sunday.

Traditionally, gun sales go up every election year, he said, but sales have been noticeably brisk since the mass shooting in Connecticut and since the president reheated the discussion on gun control in recent weeks.

“It’s because people are worried about changes in gun laws and regulations,” he said. “Change makes people anxious and it causes more sales in guns.”

According to Mitchell, who bought the club in 1999, the Oak Tree Gun Club employs 60 people and is now one of the largest private gun clubs in the state, with officers from 22 law enforcement agencies training there.

Since it opened in 1973, the Oak Tree Gun Club has grown in membership and sales, Mitchell said.

He noticed gun sales spiked after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“After 9/11, police departments became much more heavily armed,” he said.

Since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 28 people, local gun sales have been “dramatic” and enrollment in firearm training “substantial.”

During the past year, 1,500 people became Oak Tree Gun Club members, pushing membership to 5,000 — a 43 percent increase.

Firearms training classes have a four-month waiting list.

At least half of those signed up are Santa Clarita Valley residents, Mitchell said.

Many of those seeking firearm training are women, Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s two daughters, Betsy James and Katie Mitchell, took over control of the club in 2010 and created California Gun Girls LLC.

On Monday, the president endorsed controversial bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers — but conceded he may not win approval of all in a Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions, according to the Associated Press.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said Monday.

He said lawmakers would have to “examine their own conscience” as they tackle gun control legislation after the horrifying Connecticut school shootings but in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.

Obama spoke at a midday White House news conference one month after the Newtown elementary school rampage, which ignited a national discussion on preventing mass shootings.

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive road map for curbing gun violence within days.

“I don’t believe Congress will approve a ban on assault rifles,” Mitchell said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

jholt@signalscv.com

661-287-5527

On Twitter @jamesarthurholt

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