ROCKVILLE—For years Gilbert Indoor Shooting Range had a rifle outfitted with a bump stock, the same attachment used by the shooter in Las Vegas that made his AR-15 shoot nearly as fast as an automatic weapon, but no one cared to ask for it.
“Nobody shot it. It was sitting in our rental line and nobody cared,” said manager Kurt Purdine. “Then as soon as that shooting happened everyone was like, ‘You guys got bump fires?’”
On Sunday they had nearly sold out of them, with only one available for an AK-47 rifle.
Purdine, 24, said he’s used to getting calls or visits from reporters in the area whenever there’s a mass shooting, and every time they ask his views on gun control he gives them the same answer.
“No gun law is going to stop someone who is determined to get a gun,” Purdine said. “And no gun law is going to stop a curious kid from rummaging through his parent’s drawers when they are home alone to get the key to the gun cabinet. I know that because I did it when I was a kid.”
Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the country which require gun owners to keep any loaded firearm away from unsupervised children, according to the Maryland State Police website. When storing the firearm it must be unloaded in a locked case and preferably with a trigger lock, the law states.
Purdine has been shooting since the age of seven and bought his first firearm as soon as he turned 18, the minimum legal age to purchase a shotgun or rifle in Maryland. He said he bought a shotgun for home defense because he and his mother lived alone on a farm. Despite his familiarity with firearms he still took a safety course and made sure he kept his gun in a secure place.
In 2013 Maryland passed a law that requires any first-time firearm owner to take a safety course. It also required anyone with a permit to carry or wear a handgun to renew their permit every two years.
State law also requires anyone who is buying a handgun to be registered and provide their fingerprints. Anyone who buys a shotgun or rifle does not have to go through this process because they are not often used in crimes and are not as easy to conceal, Purdine said.
“You can’t just walk down the street with one of these without someone calling the cops,” Purdine said. “A handgun can be small enough to carry in your waistband. You could walk into a 7-Eleven and no one would know you’re carrying a gun until you pull it out to rob the place.”
According to the latest National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately half a million people were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011. In the same year, data collected by the FBI showed firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robbery offenses and 21 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide. Most homicides in the U.S. are committed with firearms, especially handguns, the survey states.
Purdine said despite the potential danger firearms pose when used by criminals or the mentally ill, they are a necessary and vital part of our society and compared them to owning a car.
“Anytime you have a drunk driver you don’t hear people talking about changing the way they issue driver’s licenses,” he said from behind the counter while attending some of his regular customers. “A car is as much of a weapon as a gun. You can go out there and shoot someone or you can go out there and run someone over with a car, which would probably mess you up worse.”
Curtis Levinson, who visits the range about once a week, chuckled at Purdine’s comments. A former military special forces instructor, Levinson, has had a long and somewhat complicated relationship with firearms. During our brief interview, he mentioned he did not hunt, “I’ve already done that in real life.”
On this day he was there to enjoy target practice with his Browning Buckmark .22 caliber pistol. He said his gun is not good for hunting or home defense and is specially designed for accuracy and hitting targets.
“It’s a sport. It’s all about control and concentration and hopefully mental discipline, but around here you never know,” Levinson said, taking a jab at Purdine who was ringing him up for some ammunition.
Before walking into the only indoor range in Montgomery County, Levinson agreed with Purdine that no amount of legislation could prevent a mass shooting like the one in Las Vegas on the night of Oct. 1 when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers killing at least 59 and injuring 546.
Authorities said 12 of the firearms the shooter had in his 32nd-floor hotel room where he shot at the crowd were modified with bump stocks.
“If someone is determined to get their hands on a gun they will get a gun,” Levinson said. “I mean you can try, but look at what we just saw in Las Vegas. It is really, really, really hard to get an automatic weapon but who knew there was this little gadget called a bump stock.”