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Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Dianne Feinstein

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A weapons ban proposed Thursday could remove many popular guns from Southwest Florida store shelves.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed banning the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importing of semi-automatic rifles, pistols, handguns and shotguns that have high-capacity magazines or certain military features.

Local gun stores say the ban would affect the majority of their stock, but disagree on how much of a problem that would pose to business. Those who oppose the ban argue it can’t prevent criminals from illegally acquiring the weapons. But a community leader says the ban will help curb violence in Fort Myers, which saw a record year of 24 homicides in 2012.

About 70 percent of handguns sold at Fowler Firearms would fall under the proposed ban, according to Josh Hackman, manager of the Fort Myers store. The ban would prohibit the sale of semi-automatic handguns with fixed magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“It would be a huge inconvenience because I couldn’t sell any of those guns until I had replacement magazines,” Hackman said. “Basically it would really kind of paralyze us for business. That’s really the idea behind this — to make it almost impossible.”

Another 100-150 rifles, about 75 percent of his stock, wouldn’t make the cut. The bill would ban certain military features on semi-automatic rifles. Converting rifles isn’t as simple as converting handguns because the magazines can’t be swapped out, Hackman said.

It’s unlikely Fowler Firearms will end up stuck with unsold, banned inventory. Business has been brisk over the past month, and the store has few semi-automatic rifles left in stock.

But down the road, the proposed ban could have disastrous effects for businesses that find most of their stock on the list of banned weapons, Hackman said.

“Long term,” he said, “this is going to put a lot of people out of business.”

Travis Brunson, owner of Guns on 41 in south Fort Myers, said the proposed ban wouldn’t have as drastic an effect as some gun sellers fear.

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“People are still going to have an interest in guns,” he said. “They are still going to want guns for protection and self-defense and target shooting.”

About 60 percent of Brunson’s guns would fall under the ban — mostly handguns. His most popular pistol holds 15 rounds, he said.

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, opposes the proposed ban because it ignore the real issue — the need for mental health services. She wants to figure out what makes people want to go on shooting sprees.

“If everybody passes legislation for controlling weapons and the like and pats themselves on the back and goes home,” Passidomo said, “they haven’t done anything.”

The high-capacity weapons Feinstein’s bill would ban are commonly used by criminals in Fort Myers, according to Capt. Dennis Eads of the Fort Myers Police Department. But Eads said the ban wouldn’t make a difference in crime because it would only be followed by law-abiding citizens.

James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County branch of the NAACP, disagrees. He said banning high-capacity weapons will have an immediate impact on violent crime in Fort Myers.

“If we stop making assault weapons to sell to the average citizen,” Muwakkil said, “then that in itself reduces the chance of a criminal breaking into someone’s home or business and stealing them.”

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, would not support the proposed weapons ban if it makes it to the House of Representatives. The bill is a knee-jerk reaction to recent mass shootings that is not based in reality, he said.

“The war on guns is as naive as the war on drugs,” Radel said. “Nothing will disappear.”

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