Holiday heat: Shoppers aiming to please with guns as gifts

NAPLES, Fla. -- With the holidays coming, some people are looking for a gift that is sure to make an impact -- a gun.

And with gun sales up nationwide, gun shops in Southwest Florida are meeting demand by offering everything from pink-and-purple rifles -- known as "girlie guns" -- to sleek and silver Glock pistols.

Major retailers also are offering them in their festive holiday fliers: Walmart's shows everything from BB guns to scope-mounted rifles under the tease: "Bright ideas for your favorite outdoorsman."

Gun-related accessories are big sellers, too -- everything from purses with hidden holsters to bedside gun concealment clocks to targets that look like giant spiders lurking in a web.

So are "stocking stuffers," including stun guns disguised as flashlights and key rings, or embedded in brass knuckles -- or boxes of ammunition, currently in short supply.

And for fussy or hard-to-please recipients, there's always a gun gift card.

While most people buy firearms for themselves, they're popular presents, said Kathryn Bergquist, an owner of Wayne Bergquist Guns and Gunsmithing in Naples.

"Husbands are buying for wives, and wives for a daughter or son," she said, noting that gift guns make up about 10 percent of the company's business every year.

And while most people who buy are already collectors, she said, some people give guns to those who have never shot one before. For instance, one older man bought a handgun for his younger wife, assuming she would outlive him.

"He wanted to make sure she had protection," she said.

Bergquist said her shop's sales are up 30 percent year-over-year, a reflection of national trends.

Gun sales spiked nationwide shortly after a gunman shot 20 elementary school students and six teachers in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012. The burst of sales apparently was based on fears firearms regulations would be tightened.

While major manufacturers' sales have slowed from the torrid pace of earlier in the year, they still have risen sharply from a year earlier.

On Dec. 9, Remington Outdoor Co. reported it expects sales for 2013 to reach between $1.25 billion and $1.28 billion, up from $931.9 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, gun advocates' concerns that regulations would be tightened after the mass shooting didn't come to pass. Indeed, they won major victories in Congress when lawmakers blocked efforts to expand required background checks for firearms buyers, which currently are only required for purchases from licensed gun dealers -- not on the web or at gun shows.

Lawmakers also rejected proposals to ban assault weapons and large-scale ammunition magazines, which have been used in mass killings.

Florida law also doesn't forbid you from giving a gun to another state resident. If you are buying it, even as a gift, you'll be required to undergo a background check. You must use your own money to buy it and must not knowingly give it to someone who is legally prohibited from owning one.

Federal law allows giving a gun as a gift as well, with certain exceptions concerning minors and some types of weapons, including machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and rifles.

While minors can't buy guns, parents who fondly remember the 1983 television comedy "A Christmas Story," where 8-year-old Ralphie Parker yearns for a Red Ryder BB gun, can still make their dreams come true.

With the exception of handguns, federal law lets parents and guardians give guns to their children under age 18. And even handguns are allowed if the parents give written permission and the weapons are to be used for limited purposes, such as target practice or hunting.

As a result, some manufacturers are aiming their marketing specifically at the young.

A Milton, Pa.-based maker, Keystone Sporting Arms, sells its colorful Crickett rifles -- with pink, blue, orange and rainbow-hued stocks -- with the slogans "my first rifle" and "quality firearms for America's youth."

Although the company says on its website that it aims to "instill safety in the minds of youth shooters," the rifle is still potentially lethal -- as was proven in May when a 2-year-old Kentucky boy shot and killed his 5-year-old sister with a Crickett stashed in a corner that his parents hadn't realized was still loaded.

The death was ruled accidental.

Although the Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms, Florida retailers aren't required to sell a gun to anyone who wants one. And some store owners contacted by the Daily News refuse to sell guns to buyers if they know it will be given to someone else.

Those store owners that do, however, say they often suggest buyers give their recipients gift cards or photos of their intended purchases, rather than the gun itself. That way the required background check done for all gun purchases will be done on the eventual owner, rather than the giver. They also encourage givers to throw in a few classes for the recipients.

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