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After Church Massacre, Many Texas Residents Want Gun Laws Relaxed For Protection


Last Sunday, a man entered a church in a tiny town in Southern Texas and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, killing or wounding almost everyone inside. As you might imagine, the national conversation almost immediately went to the issue of guns, which is one of this country's most divisive issues. Many pointed to the mass shooting as the latest evidence that there needs to be more gun control, but others say the laws need to be looser so that, quote, unquote, "good citizens" can protect against the bad ones. NPR's Leila Fadel visited a gun store and sent this report.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: At Ranger Firearms in San Antonio, Texas, the owner's Dalmatian, Tonto, lounges at the front door of the store.

EDWARD DEWEES III: We sell a lot of snake-proof boots. And this is our tester.

FADEL: Oh, wow.

DEWEES III: That's Roscoe.

FADEL: Edward DeWees III shows me around. He's pointing at Roscoe, the pet snake. Above the snake's terrarium is a wall of AR-15 rifles.

DEWEES III: You know, 20 years ago, people bought ARs to shoot. Now people buy ARs for hunting.

FADEL: DeWees is proud of the atmosphere he's created here, a place that is friendly and knowledgeable about guns.

DEWEES III: If it's a rightful gun owner that's a law-abiding citizen, they should have the ability and the right to own a gun and protect themselves and their family.

FADEL: I ask how sales have been since the shooting in Sutherland Springs less than an hour's drive away.

DEWEES III: A huge spike.

FADEL: A 20 percent spike in the sale of pistols. Texas is an open-carry state, and there is a thriving gun culture here. Just down the road this weekend is a gun show. DeWees always has his weapon with him.

DEWEES III: You don't want to be caught in crossfire. There's a lot of really good people out there. There's a bunch crazy people out there. You never know when that person's going to be - turn crazy, you know.

FADEL: And after Sutherland Springs, people here are citing the other man with a semiautomatic weapon as proof that more people should carry guns. After the shooter exited the church, Stephen Willeford shot him twice last Sunday.

DEWEES III: We should loosen the gun laws for people that are allowed to have guns and people that are model citizens like myself. I think I ought to be able to walk into any gun shop and buy whatever I want, whenever I want.

FADEL: Though something, DeWees says, should be done to make the screening process more streamlined. It could help stop putting guns into the wrong hands. He compares it to people who go from doctor to doctor to get more prescriptions than they really should. DeWees says gun ownership is a right, but guns need to be in the hands of responsible people.

DEWEES III: We have the ability to not sell you a gun if we feel that you are intoxicated or on any type of medication that is making you a threat to the society.

FADEL: This shooter shouldn't have been able to pass a background check, but his assault record from his time in the military wasn't entered into the federal system.

DEWEES III: At some point, there has to be some changes, and it may affect my business. And if it does, and it helps our city or our state or the United States as a whole, then let's jump on it. Let's do it.

FADEL: Gun control advocates, though, point to one mass shooting in the United States after another. The common denominator, they say, are the guns. Leila Fadel, NPR News, San Antonio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.