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Jeff Rabideau and Suzie Thaller. They ran a gun shop in Altona for 18 years. Photo: Sarah Harris
Jeff Rabideau and Suzie Thaller. They ran a gun shop in Altona for 18 years. Photo: Sarah Harris

How will new laws affect North Country gun dealers?

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This week we're looking closely at some of the consequences of New York's new gun control law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the law's provisions "common sense." It closes loopholes in the state's assault weapons ban and limits magazine clips to seven bullets; background checks will now be required for ammunition purchases; and for private sale of guns, and there will be stiffer penalties for using illegal weapons.

Gun buyers and gun sellers are giving the rules a close read. In the North Country, buying a gun doesn't always mean heading to a big box store like Gander Mountain or Dick's. The region is home to over 200 smaller gun retailers, many of which are adjusting to the new laws.

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Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

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Brian Sherwood's gun collection at his home in Tupper Lake looks almost like a museum display. There's a handmade flintlock rifle, a mannequin dressed up in old World War II fatigues, and Adirondack pack baskets hanging from the walls. And then, there's a rack of guns.

Brian explains them one by one: a 1936 rifle used by the Russians in World War II, an original Russian sniper rifle, and the list goes on.

Brian Sherwood in front of his personal gun collection. Photo: Sarah Harris
Brian Sherwood in front of his personal gun collection. Photo: Sarah Harris
Brian's a total history buff. He's a big guy, with ear and facial piercings.

He's also a card-carrying Democrat.

And like many North Country gun retailers, he's trying to figure out how the state's new gun control laws will affect his business.

"I stock mainly military guns from WWII and earlier," Brian explains. "I also sell the so-called assault rifles, I don't stock them, I order them per order which of course came to a crashing halt on Jan. 15. And I also stock military accessories, which includes high capacity magazines and some accessories for AR -15s and AK-47s."

Brian's primary income doesn't come from gun sales. He works at Adirondack Correctional Facility. But he loves old guns, and decided to turn his hobby into a business.

His inventory is small – around $5,000-$6,000. Brian says those military accessories, now illegal, probably represent about 15 percent of it, about $500-$800.

"I'll either have to sell on the internet if I can, give it away out of state or just take a hammer to it."

Brian says he's having a hard time stocking what his customers want.

"Right now those distributors are empty. They've got nothing to sell as far as ammunition goes."

Jeff Rabideau and his wife, Suzie Thaller are avid outdoorsmen. They ran a gun shop northern Clinton county near the Canadian border for 18 years and also organized a gun show. He says a lot of distributors probably don't want to do business in New York state.

Jeff says that over the years, the business has gotten harder and harder.

You get some guys who are saying well, I'll just give in...­­­And then some guys are just saying, I'm not gonna abide by the law, let 'em put me in jail.
"At one time I had close to $50,000 worth of stuff. But as the years went down and sales started declining, the big box stores moved in 20 miles down the road, it started going down, then I started looking to more of the custom, more expensive orders and hard to find stuff. And I did that for while."

Last spring Jeff and Suzie closed their gun store. Jeff had always wanted to cook for a living. So they moved to the western Adirondacks to Cranberry Lake and opened a new business running a motel and diner.

Jeff figured he'd just take a break from selling guns.

"I had to transfer my license to my new residency and it took a while. Call the ATF, tell 'em you you moved, fill out another form, they have to come and inspect your books, tell you how to do it proper again, check out where you're settin' up your business so it gets secured for your guns."

Jeff says the licensing process took almost six months.

But now he's not sure if he wants to start selling guns again.

"I had plans to. I don't know now," says Jeff. "'Cause if you gotta do background checks on ammunition, it's too much time for selling a box of .22 shells. Probably someday. We'll wait and see how the rules slide down.

"Stick with fishing equipment," Suzie adds. "It's safer at this point."

Both dealers say that they're not the only ones reeling from the new laws. Their customers are too.

Here's that card-carrying Democrat, Brian Sherwood:

"You get some guys who are saying well, I'll just give in, I'll give 'em what they want, I'll throw away what I can't have, and I'll take my loss. ­­­And then some guys are just saying, I'm not gonna abide by the law, let 'em put me in jail."

Neither Jeff nor Brian has sold a lot of the semi-automatic weapons highlighted in the new state laws. But Jeff says that their customers want choices.

"A lot of the people I used to sell to bought high capacity mag[azine]s. They don't have a tendency to use 'em. They probably never had 'em out of the box. But they want to have the opportunity to buy."

As for Jeff and Brian, they'd like the opportunity to sell.

 

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