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LI gun shops see rush to buy assault rifles

Andrew Chernoff, owner of Coliseum Gun Traders LTD.

Andrew Chernoff, owner of Coliseum Gun Traders LTD. in Uniondale, speaks to a customer by phone. (Jan. 15, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island gun shop owners reported long lines and an uptick in sales Tuesday, as customers rushed to purchase assault rifles and ammunition before new state gun control reforms were signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

At Coliseum Gun Traders in Uniondale, customers were waiting before the store opened its doors at 10 a.m., said store owner Andrew Chernoff.

AR-15 semiautomatic rifles have been sold out at the store since last week, as gun owners reacted to growing calls to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines on the state and federal level in the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Despite being sold out of the popular AR-15 model, customers still packed into Chernoff's shop Tuesday hoping to purchase other remaining models before the law took effect immediately upon being signed.

"They're worried about the possible erosion of their rights," Chernoff said of the rush of customers.

Chernoff said he was "for anything that can make the shooting sport safer," such as the mental health checks included in the new law, but said there were no guarantees the assault weapons ban would lead to safer conditions.

Brandon Grasser, of Bethpage, said he had planned to buy a semiautomatic rifle in the "future" but moved up his plans after hearing about possible state legislative action.

Grasser said he called gun shops in upstate New York, Connecticut and New Jersey and they all told him they were sold out of the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

"I think it's ridiculous," Grasser said of the new state law. "I think they're forgetting what America is all about."

John Poulous, of Mineola, was one of several customers who crowded into the Classic Firearms store in Mineola.

He said he hadn't purchased a new firearm in 10 years but felt an "immediate" need to purchase one knowing that the state legislature was poised to approve the reforms that include reducing the maximum magazine capacity from 10 to seven rounds.

"It's like a game of musical chairs, and I don't want to be the person left without a chair," Poulous said.

A manager at Benson's Gun Shop in Coram said the store's parking lot was "overflowing" throughout the day.

"We're swamped like never before," said David, a manager at the store who asked only to be identified by his first name.

"People are buying up pretty much everything we have."

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