Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo
The doors to the Smokin' Barrels Gun Shop may as well have been revolving on Tuesday.
An alarm beeped as customers entered and exited the North Naples store during their lunch breaks. Dustin Vickers, 28, who works at his father's shop at 5400 Taylor Road, gave one customer a demonstration on how to use a rifle, while three others waited for his attention.
"We haven't been able to stop. It's been pretty busy," Vickers said. "Things are leaving as quick as we can get them in."
Residents have flooded local gun shops since Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., several store owners said. They say their customers are afraid the shooting will lead to more stringent gun-control laws that could prevent future purchases of some guns and ammunition.
"The phone is ringing off the hook. People are buying guns before they're even out of the boxes," said Craig Wendel, an employee at Centennial Arms, an East Naples gun shop on Airport-Pulling Road. "Any time something happens involving firearms, there's a spike in sales.
"People are nervous about what the government is going to do."
But while the killings have led to a stream of ideas on gun-control and school safety at the national level, the reaction in Florida has generally been muted. No gun legislation has been introduced in either the Florida House or Senate since the shooting.
At the same time, requests for background checks, which are required to purchase a gun in Florida, are up.
On the day of the shooting, there were 4,805 background check requests statewide, spiking to 6,945 on Saturday, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement numbers. That is compared to 3,258 and 3,900 on the comparable Friday and Saturday last year, although the number of background checks requested this December was trending higher than last year even before the shooting.
The FDLE received 3,171 background checks on Sunday and 5,735 on Monday. The momentum showed no signs of slowing on Tuesday.
Smokin' Barrels' customers said they were shopping for Christmas presents, home protection, or were trying to scoop up weapons before distributors ran out of a particular model. Deborah Rex, 58, a 27-year Naples resident, said she was looking to load up on ammo.
"Preparing for what could be lying ahead," said Rex, who said she owns three guns. "I believe there's going to be a real food crisis in this country ... and it might be time to truly defend what we have."
In Tallahassee, Republican legislators, who have traditionally worked to expand gun rights, have largely steered clear of the issue since Friday. Democrats have also seemed hesitant, mindful that the GOP-dominated Legislature is unlikely to pass sweeping new laws to control firearms.
"The Legislature is very, very pro-gun lobby," said Rep. Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat who heads up his caucus' policy efforts.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said his office is researching potential changes, including ideas for making it easier to check an applicant's mental health history.
"It's not just the guns," Smith said. "It's the guns in the hands of people with mental illness."
At the Southwest Florida gun shops, customers and employees said stricter gun laws won't prevent mass shootings.
"Every time a shooting happens it's in some place you're not allowed to have guns. Laws can't work," Wendel said. "They need to figure out better laws on how the school deals with the mental health of the students. More programs detailed for troubled youth. Find out why, what the problem is. "
Jim Kress, a retired Army colonel shopping at Smokin' Barrels on Tuesday, said changes need to start at home and in schools, churches and synagogues.
"Everyone wants peace," Kress said. "(but) if you love peace more than freedom, you lose."
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.