Does gun violence spark gun sales? According to a pair of area gun dealers, the answer is "no", at least not here in rural Minnesota right now.
Devin Kelley took 26 lives in a Texas church and wounded 20 more people Nov. 5 before his murder spree ended, making it the deadliest mass shooting in state history. From a Las Vegas hotel room Oct. 1 Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and left more than 500 wounded before he took his own life.
While Kelley had a record of mental illness and violence, Paddock did not. What they both had were plenty of guns and the resolve to use them on unsuspecting targets.
So what impact have these mass shootings, coming little more than a month apart, had on local guns shops here?
"It's just normal here," B and R Guns Owner Rich Stuntebeck said. "I don't see any difference at all, not like it was four or five years ago."
Stuntebeck said his son, Bryan, who works for a large distributor of guns and ammunition, has not seen an increase in his business either because of the frightening events in Texas and Nevada.
Nick Adamczyk of Gene's Sports Shop in Perham echoed Stuntebeck's comments about his gun sales. The third-generation businessman has not seen any spike in his sales.
"It must be Democrats, that must be the scary part," Adamczyk said, a bit tongue-in-cheek.
According to Adamczyk, when Democrat Barack Obama became president of the United States in 2008 it started a stampede in the gun business. Fear of being the victim of a mass shooting appeared to pale beside the fear of a government which might infringe on a citizen's Second Amendment rights by confiscating one or all of their firearms. No ban was implemented by the Obama Administration, but gun sales still exploded.
The United States did have a ban on assault weapons for 10 years (1994-2004). It was signed into law as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act by Democratic President Bill Clinton. The 10-year measure lapsed in 2004 when Republican President George W. Bush refused to renew it.
Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, stirred up the issue again in June, 2016 when she called for a ban on the rapid-firing AR-15 and other similar assault-style weapons after a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. That was only five months before Clinton was defeated for the presidency by Donald Trump.
Following the Dec. 5 Texas massacre, Trump went on record as saying the tragedy was the result of a "mental health problem."
Adamczyk admits to owning his share of guns and knows many others who own more than a few. Yet he said he has never known a person who has deliberately used a gun to commit a murder.
If anything has helped helped gun sales in this area lately it has been the deer hunting season, according to Stuntebeck.
"It's a little bit busy now because it's the hunting season, but there again a week before the hunting season is when you do all the business. During the hunting season you don't see much," Stuntebeck said.
Stuntebeck said he has been selling handguns but only after people are earning their carry licenses. Stuntebeck used to teach conceal and carry classes, but the course now is being taught by former police officer Brian Nelson of New York Mills.
Ammunition can be purchased by someone as young at 18. The minimum age for the purchase of handgun ammo is 21 in Minnesota. Stuntebeck said 21 is also the minimum age to purchase a handgun. In addition, a handgun buyer must have a permit to purchase a handgun which is issued by the county sheriff. That permit is issued or not issued within 10 days. In Minnesota, the AR-15 is considered an assault weapon and he cannot sell one a buyer under 21.
"An AR-15 can be anywhere from five rounds to 250 rounds," Stuntebeck said. "Your normal AR-15 has a 30-round magazine."
Stuntebeck's AR-15 business is driven by predator hunters. Ninety-five percent of the AR-15's he sells are to hunters. He has not sold an AR-15 for self-defense in the 11 years he has operated his rural Otter Tail County business.
"The ones I have out here are all 30-round magazines. They are kind of bulky to hunt with, so I've got 10-round magazines for the guys who want to hunt with them."
The AR-15 is popular with coyote hunters because of its firepower.
Mass shootings have been sparking debates over gun control for decades but the simple, deadly fact, according to both Stuntebeck and Adamczyk, is that gun dealers like themselves have only so much control over who buys guns. As dealers they have to notify the ATF and even the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in some cases for a background check on their customer.
"They either give me an okay, a delayed or a denied. Delayed means you've got five days and within that five days they can okay you at any time. After five days if they have not called me I can make a business decision. Say I know you, I know you are not going to go out and kill anybody, so I deliver the gun to you. But if I don't know the guy, he's never been in here before, I don't make decisions like that."
But what if a person does not want to go through a gun dealer and they still want to get their hands on a gun? Is there anything stopping a person with enough cash from dropping over to a neighbor's place and buying a gun from them?
The answer is "no."
"You can't get it from a dealer without a permit, but you can get it from Joe down the street anytime you want," Stuntebeck said. "That is perfectly legal as it goes right now. You can buy an AR from your neighbor, and that's it."
If a customer wants to buy a gun from a dealer, Stuntebeck said a 4473 form has to be completed. The dealer then has to call or electronically submit the form to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)-a process that can take no more than five minutes.