Civil unrest is good for business at Longmont’s Grandpa’s Pawn and Gun, a local landmark and one of the busiest gun shops in the state, John Ogawa said last week.
Ogawa works behind the counter of Grandpa’s which is packed with weapons, ammunition and stuffed wildlife that stand as sentries inside the nearly 30-year-old business. Ogawa, who has worked at Grandpa’s for four years, said economic and political uncertainty usually works in Grandpa’s favor.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, the store was flooded with requests by people who needed their criminal background checks to clear in order to purchase a firearm. “In early 2020, on an average day, we had about 20-50 people waiting for their background checks to go through.”
“When COVID hit, we had 500-600 people in (line) for background checks,” Ogawa said. “It was incredible, unprecedented. That usually happens when something comes along to shake people up. A lot of people came in who have never owned a gun before, and they felt that if they encountered trouble, the police wouldn't be there to help them.”
They have a lot of questions about firearms, and the procedures to get them, Ogawa said. “We try to answer every question they have,” he added. “We are here to educate.”
So far, Grandpa’s has not seen an uptick in gun sales as the city council explores some local gun control measures, Ogawa said. “We haven’t seen much of a push. I think people are waiting to see what the council does,” he said.
The council is taking tentative steps following mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas. Mayor Joan Peck said last week she feels residents want to see some response to the shootings, which left many helpless and frustrated.
“My job is to protect the health and safety of our residents,” Peck said. “They are murdering people out there.”
The city has a responsibility to answer the mass attacks with some modern-day measures since the Second Amendment does not cover the type of high-tech weaponry now available to nearly everyone in the city.
“The Second Amendment was framed in the 1700’s, when pitchforks were weapons. “2022 is a very different time than in the 1700s.”
Several Boulder County communities have been quick to frame ordinances aimed at gun control. In Boulder, the city council took several measures including banning the sale and possession of assault weapons, large-capacity magazines and rapid-fire trigger activators.
Longmont councilors — in a study session last week — agreed that their options were limited in finding a gun law or two that can be adequately enforced.
Residents in search of a gun to buy could simply go to a bordering community in Weld County that is unlikely to pass any gun control measure, Councilor Aren Rodriguez said.
There are also at least six gun shops in and around Longmont, added Councilor Marcia Martin. She said the only viable law could target people for openly carrying weapons.
“I think that would be the only one that could be effective,” Martin said. “An open carry prohibition is the only one that could make a difference in Longmont.”
The city council did not pass any gun control measures last week but asked city staff members to explore some ideas to be brought back for more discussion. They included:
- Banning the open carrying of weapons in the city.
- Enforcing a 10-day waiting period after the purchase of a firearm.
- Being 21-years-of-age before the purchase of any firearm.
- Prohibiting the sale of unserialized firearms or “ghost guns.”
- Signage on buildings reminding people about an open carry ban.
- Developing a system where residents can easily report someone who may be considering harming others with a gun.
Councilor Tim Waters also said the city should be ready to engage pro-and-anti-gun advocates, faith leaders and others in a wide-ranging discussion on how to avoid gun violence.
“We need to do everything we can to avoid a catastrophe in our community,” Waters said.