SPARKS — A man and his wife browsed through the quaint store at Franktown center as if they were shopping for sweaters or new shoes.
“Is it too light?” they asked the storeowner.
“I wouldn’t recommend that one,” the storeowner said in his Israeli accent. “It will put a few holes in someone, but it won’t kill him. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve had to shoot people, unfortunately.”
They went on to find a better piece, one that would “shoot to kill,” yet one that would also fit in his wife’s hand.
“This is the gun I swear by,” the storeowner said, holding out an easy to handle firearm.
This last-minute shopping trip to buy a firearm Friday was not something unusual. The gun store in Reno, called Maccabee Arms, Ltd., is owned by Sharon Oren, an Israeli Naval Special Operations veteran and Bill Maniaci, an Army veteran. The two have sold thousands of dollars worth of guns and accessories this holiday season.
One woman picked up a shiny, silver gun case for her husband as a Christmas gift. A man bought a new rifle and holster.
And the cash register was constantly opening and closing.
“Sorry for the empty holes (in inventory), it’s been a good couple of weeks,” Oren told customers as they perused the inventory.
The store, celebrating its first anniversary, has seen a boost in sales this month, as have many firearms stores in the Reno-Sparks area. Some say the upswing is due to the economy and the fact that many want a firearm for protection. Others say its because they fear changes are coming from the federal government next year, and some believe recent changes in the Carrying a Concealed Weapons (CCW) law are the reason.
“Check the crime rates,” said Kevin Roth, owner of Arms to Bear Security Specialists. “People want to protect themselves.”
Whatever the case, shoppers are out to buy. And, when it comes to weapons, it’s not unusual to see people shelling out $400 to $1,000.
Bizarre Guns, located at the corner of Oddie Boulevard and Silverado Road in Sparks, was so packed with customers recently that one could barely walk through the store to browse through the entire collection.
Though the larger box stores also sell firearms, smaller stores like Bizarre Guns, Maccabee Arms and others offer a personal touch that the larger stores might not, Oren said.
Maccabee Arms is meant to offer customers that “mom-and-pop, cigar-club feel.” “We’ve definitely made a big (splash) in the northern Nevada scene,” Oren said. “We have a totally different atmosphere.”
During every sale, Oren offers a package that includes classes in safety or obtaining a CCW permit. He does this, he said, because he believes there isn’t enough emphasis on teaching and educating the buyer.
“There are no civilians working here,” he said. “We reach, teach, inspire and educate our buyers. It gives people that extra knowledge and confidence for those who have to use these tools.”
Oren said he believes in the responsibility of firearms safety and that there may have been a loss of that at some point along the way. As a former security specialist, Oren has training in executive protection and counterterrorism. He also works with veterans in his store.
Arms to Bear has developed a mobile shooting range to teach the basics of gun safety.
In Nevada, John Clement, manager of Bizarre Guns, said it only takes about half an hour to get a background check by phone and someone can walk out the door with a new firearm. Getting a CCW permit costs vary depending on the agency and where the gun owner obtains the permit. But classes allow the owner to get practice on how to handle the gun.
“Firearms are very personal,” Oren said. “Everybody has different needs.”