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Kenny Brand of Blue Ridge Arsenal, left, assists brothers Tony Drosos, 32, and Peter Drosos, 30, with some of the firearms in Chantilly, VA Tuesday, December 18, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Kenny Brand of Blue Ridge Arsenal, left, assists brothers Tony Drosos, 32, and Peter Drosos, 30, with some of the firearms in Chantilly, VA Tuesday, December 18, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

America’s obsession with guns Add to ...

The television set in the Hudnalls’ business is tuned to a news channel, which has been dominated by non-stop coverage of the shooting for days.

“That makes me sick, because I have kids,” Ms. Hudnall says. “I could never use a gun on a person. Could you? Gun safety is of utmost importance to me.”

The only situation in which she could imagine shooting someone, she says, is to protect innocents from a gunman such as Mr. Lanza.

She isn’t alone. The idea that the nation would be safer if citizens used guns to kill those who would do harm is one of the NRA’s central principles. And, in some ways, it perpetuates itself in a positive-feedback loop: The more people have guns, the more others feel the need to pack heat to defend against potential threats.

John Carter, a clerk at Antique and Modern, sometimes carries a concealed pistol. He’s never pulled it out, but says he wouldn’t hesitate if his life were at risk.

“I’d rather be judged by a group of 12 than buried by six,” he says. “If you read about me, it won’t be in the victims’ column.”

A thrill

For all the practical reasons gun owners proffer for their choice of weapon, the sheer enjoyment of firing them seems to be the most common attraction.

Patrick McMillion, a 45-year-old systems analyst at a high-tech company in Lewisburg, W.Va., started shooting BB guns competitively in elementary school. He later hunted with shotguns and eventually took up target practice as a hobby. Now, he stops by a pistol range to shoot four or five nights every week, and competes on Fridays.

“It’s hard to explain to some people, but it’s relaxing,” he says, reloading his Ruger Mark II, a handgun built for marksmen like him. “After a day of clicking a mouse and sitting in front of a keyboard, you come down here and you can do something where you see the results right away. It’s a form of relaxation for me.”

Tony Drosos, a 31-year-old contractor who stopped by Blue Ridge to pick up a couple of assault rifles, describes the weapons simply: “They’re fun, man.”

He and his brother, 30-year-old restaurateur Peter, are buying the rifles ahead of the expected ban, partly as an investment in case they go up in price. They’re also looking for pistols to give family members for Christmas.

The brothers are in favour of at least some increased controls. Peter suggests registering guns in peoples’ names, so they can be better traced; Tony says a cooling-off period is also a good idea.

Such nuance is unusual in the highly charged debate.

At a shooting range in suburban Lexington, the owner is reluctant to go on record, but eager to casually share his views with a reporter. He likens gun control to Prohibition: Ban the most powerful weapons, he says, and criminals will simply procure them illegally.

And what of Japan, where strict gun laws seem to have worked?

He pauses for a second before responding: “You know, I don’t think I’d want to live in a country where I couldn’t defend myself.”

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