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A Gun Shop Owner On Age Limits In Sales


A national debate about guns has been renewed since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. And some individual companies have tightened restrictions of gun sales on their own.

This week, Sheriff Ken Mascara in St. Lucie County, Fla., about 100 miles or so north of Parkland, has sent a letter to 84 gun dealers in his region, asking them to voluntarily stop selling semi-automatic weapons to anybody younger than 21.

It's currently legal in Florida to sell them to someone 18 years old or older. Brian DeVito owns The Tactical Store, a gun shop in Port St. Lucie. He received one of the sheriff's letters and joins us. Thanks so much for being with us.

BRIAN DEVITO: Pleasure being here.

SIMON: Did the sheriff's letter convince you?

DEVITO: I agree with the sheriff. You know, anything that we do - we can do to help sheriff out, you know, if he truly believes that it would make our town safer, we're certainly behind him.

SIMON: Do you think it will make your town safer?

DEVITO: Honestly, I think it's too soon to tell. Everybody is acting on emotions right now, but I think at this point, it couldn't hurt until we have more time to discuss the situation.

SIMON: I guess I'm trying to figure out if this is a big sacrifice. Do you sell many semi-automatic weapons to people under 21?

DEVITO: Actually we do not, the largest customer base of ours is, you know, over in the, you know, 30- to 70-year-old male range. So we sell a lot of semi-automatic rifles to young men anyway.

SIMON: I understand you had an AR-15 when you were under 21.

DEVITO: I did. Yeah, for my 18th birthday. I was walking in a gun show, and I saw the rifle. And I said, that looks like it would be a lot of fun. So I purchased it. And, you know, as a young man, I did a lot of shooting with it, and it was a lot of fun.

SIMON: Shooting on a range?

DEVITO: At a range. Back then out in the Florida Everglades. You put up some, you know, old beer cans or put a paper target up on a hill.

SIMON: And what do you say to those people who say, look, you know, that's just not a sport weapon. There's no reason for someone who's not a soldier to have a weapon like that.

DEVITO: Well, I would strongly disagree with that. If we're referring to because of the amount of firepower, you know, you can put it in the same situation as why do we have to own a car that goes 200 miles an hour? It's just one of those things that, you know, as Americans, we have the right to do.

SIMON: Is there something different about this generation when it comes to guns, when it comes to violence?

DEVITO: I won't say that they're different when it comes to guns, but when it comes to desensitizing of violence, I think between Hollywood video games, reality television, I think the younger generation just has a different perspective on violence.

You know, back when I was a kid - and I am - I'm 49-years-old, so it's been a while - but back when as a kid, you know, we never even thought of actually harming somebody with a firearm. You know, to us firearms was just always for sport.

SIMON: How do you feel about some of the other proposals like banning bump stocks or restrictions on large-capacity magazines, that sort of thing?

DEVITO: Well, as far as the actual physical items, I think it's just a Band-Aid. You know, it doesn't matter what you ban, you have to go a little deeper and to say, why are people doing this? You know, I don't think the tool really makes a difference. And as far as banning high-capacity magazines and AR-15s and assault - what they call assault weapons today, I don't think that's the fix. I think the fix is getting down a little bit deeper and finding out why people have the urge to do this.

SIMON: And I have to ask in the wake of the Parkland school shootings sir, what's business like?

DEVITO: We've had a small uptick. It's not crazy, but we have a small uptick in business.

SIMON: Brian DeVito is the owner of The Tactical Store in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Thanks so much for being with us.

DEVITO: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.