Last week's House vote to ban assault rifles ricocheted through Utah's "gray" gun market this week.
Private citizens are buying and selling the weapons through newspapers at a frenzied pace, according to shop owners and a review of classified ads."What people don't realize is that most of the gun sales in this state take place through the newspaper or at garage sales or just through mingling," said K.D. Simpson, director of law enforcement for the state Department of Public Safety.
He estimated that for every gun bought through a licensed dealer, there may be 10 more bought on the gray market.
The proposed law, which specifically targets 19 weapons, would ban the manufacture and sale of the guns through licensed dealers.
Gun-shop owners note the price of assault rifles has more than doubled since the bill passed.
Shop owners predict a similar price increase for handguns and rifles affected by another bill that will ban from sale or manufacture weapons with clips that hold more than 10 bullets. Different versions of the bill have passed both the House and Senate and must now be reconciled in conference committee.
"The word is that Congress would like to have it all passed before the end of the month," said Jack Killorian, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokes-man.
Thousands bought handguns before the Brady Bill began requiring criminal background checks on Feb. 28. Shop owners reported runs specifically on high-capacity pistols made by Glock and Smith & Wesson.
"I've had 20 calls (since the vote); one guy didn't even know what an AR-15 was but said he wanted one because he heard he couldn't have one," said Don Winters, a gun owner who advertised this week.
In May 1991, before gun-control debate began monopolizing headlines, only four advertisements for assault-type guns were placed in Sunday editions of Salt Lake City's two daily newspapers.
A year later in the same month, when Congress started debating the Brady Bill, seven classified ads were placed. This week alone, eight ads appeared.
"There's no legislation that controls those sales. The Brady Law doesn't, and (the House bill) won't," said Killorian.
Gun owners and dealers find irony in that fact.
They say if lawmakers really wanted to keep people-killing guns out of criminal hands, they wouldn't ignore the largest, legal market for such weapons.
"This isn't about crime for them. They want an unarmed society," said Dave Nell, owner of Golden Spike Firearms.
But Simpson believes government is only trying to "manage" guns, not "control," which smacks too much of confiscation. He thinks local officials ought to have some say in private-party sales. "Exactly how you do that, I don't know," he said.
Some states require transaction records for such sales. So whenever a gun changes hands, the previous owner must fill out a record of the sale and send it to law enforcement officials.
Opponents argue the practice creates a registry of owners, which, they say, is the first step toward total confiscation.
Since Utah's version of the Brady Law took effect, law enforcement officials have checked the criminal backgrounds of more than 5,800 handgun buyers.
Of that number, only 110 buyers have been denied.
"What this whole thing points out is that the majority of people purchasing guns through licensed dealers are law-abiding," said K.D. Simpson, director of law enforcement for the state Department of Public Safety.
Assault weapons: Prices soaring
The 19 weapons specifically banned in House Resolution 4296 and their prices before the vote and after the vote:
BEFORE BILL AFTER BILL
AK-47** $179 $360
M-10, 11, 11/9, 12 $500 $1,000
Action Arms Uzi and Galil $500 $2,100
Beretta AR-70 NA* NA*
Colt AR-15 $679 $2,100
Fabrique Nationale FAL, LAR and FNC $3,000 $6,000
Steyr AUG $2,000 $5,000
Intratec TEC-9, TEC-DC9 AND TEC-22 $199 $399
Streetsweeper/Striker 12 NA* NA*
**(3 different versions made by Norinco, Mitchell and PolyTech)
*weapons not commonly sold in Utah
Source: Golden Spike Firearms, West Valley City