The Douglas and Sarpy County Sheriff's Offices this week have seen a record number of residents seeking certificates to buy firearms.
Douglas County Chief Deputy Marty Bilek said Tuesday that the number of people seeking firearms certificates to buy handguns has caused his office to rearrange staffing and even add overtime hours to handle the load of requests.
“The shootings last Friday in Sandy Hook (Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.) really sent requests through the roof,” Bilek said. “We're having record days.”
Meanwhile, several major firearms retailers, including Sidney, Neb.-based Cabela's, are rethinking sales of the rifle reported to have been used in the massacre.
Bilek attributed the interest in getting handguns to expectations that the Obama administration will seek tougher gun control laws in its second term, along with concern for personal safety in light of the school rampage that took the lives of 26 people — mostly children.
Even before the shootings, requests for handgun certificates were high.
“In November, we had our biggest month since 1991, when we began issuing firearms certificates,” Bilek said. “It used to be guys in feed caps with pickup trucks applying, but now it's businessmen, doctors and mothers with strollers, who feel the government might not be able to protect them like it did.”
The Sheriff's Office averaged 38 requests a day for firearms certificates in November, Bilek said. On Tuesday, a record 115 handgun certificates were requested and 108 issued. That broke Monday's record of 91 people requesting certificates and 86 issued.
Capt. John Kucer of the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office said 41 certificate requests were made Monday and about 80 on Tuesday, which is also a record. Typically, the county averages 20 to 25 requests per day, he said.
“We'll monitor the situation and see if this is an anomaly,” Kucer said. “Otherwise, we might need to make some (staffing) changes.”
To be issued a firearms certificate in Nebraska, applicants have to pay a $5 fee and pass a background check that can take as little as 15 minutes.
Felons, illegal immigrants, people with protection orders against them and those with domestic violence convictions are among those not eligible to purchase a handgun.
No one is allowed to sell or give away a handgun — except to a family member — unless the receiver has a firearms certificate.
Local retailers who sell guns, including all five Sol's Jewelry and Loan locations, said they're seeing an increase in interest in firearms. Sol's General Manager John Dineen cited the same reasoning as Bilek for the uptick in gun interest.
“Election years are always great years for gun sales because you never know what's going to change,” Dineen said. “Ever since the concealed weapons law came out, gun sales are on the increase. I probably helped 10 people today who came in to learn more about guns.”
Nebraskans since 2007 have been allowed to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
The shootings in Connecticut have caused some national gun retailers and organizations to tread carefully.
The NRA on Tuesday issued its first comment on the shootings, saying its 4 million members, which include “moms, dads, sons and daughters,'' were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.
“Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting,'' the statement said. “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.''
Several major firearms retailers said they are rethinking sales of the rifle model reported to have been used in the shootings.
Cabela's is still offering Bushmaster AR-15 rifles for between $729.99 and $1,039.99 each on its website. But the company notes on the page, “This firearm is not available for sale at our Connecticut store.”
Cabela's did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., the largest U.S. sporting goods chain, suspended sales of modern sporting rifles nationwide in the wake of the shootings, as the massacre's victims are mourned.
Sales of all guns have been stopped at its store closest to the shooting, the Coraopolis, Pa.-based company said Tuesday.
“We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week,” the company said in the statement. Dick's is removing the guns “out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Dick's representatives didn't return phone calls or emails seeking more information on how long the ban would be in place.
Meanwhile, private-equity and hedge fund firm Cerberus announced Tuesday that it would sell its stake in the country's largest gun maker after one of the company's guns was used in the Connecticut shootings.
Cerberus said it was putting the company, Freedom Group, up for sale. That announcement came just hours after one of Freedom Group's largest investors, the California teachers' pension fund, said it was reviewing its investments in gun companies.
Cerberus, based in New York, is owned by the billionaire financier Stephen A. Feinberg. His father lives in Newtown.
World-Herald staff writer David Hendee contributed to this report, which includes material from the New York Times.
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