U.S. flags, guns sell briskly

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U.S. flags, guns sell briskly

By Henry Pierson Curtis and Doris Bloodsworth | Sentinel Staff Writers Posted September 12, 2001 Gun and flag sales peaked across Central Florida as defiant, fearful residents rushed to arm themselves Tuesday and display their patriotism.

Many were first-time buyers, some not even knowing how to load their weapons.

By 4 p.m., Buck's Gun Rack in Daytona Beach had sold 9,000 bullets -- at least 400 percent above an average day -- and more than 10 rifles and shotguns.

"It's like a hurricane. You may have four cans of tunafish at home, and you still go out and buy more," said Forrest Buckwald, co-owner of the store.

"Today, everybody bought."

The same sense of urgency spurred sales at M&M Flags and Banners in Longwood.

"By Friday there won't be no flags left in the country," said owner James Knapton, who ordered $20,000 of U.S. flags by late afternoon. "When this stuff happens, they just sell, bare out to the walls."

Still, ammunition outsold the Stars and Stripes.

"It's a concentrated Y2K situation that started since we opened up this morning," said Khaled Akkawe, who sold more than 100 assault rifles and shotguns through his two Shoot Straight gun stores in Apopka and Casselberry.

Most sales reported across the region involved rifles and shotguns, which don't require a three-day waiting period. But the state's three-day wait for handguns didn't appear to deter anyone.

"To me, it seems rather fruitless that they're buying them. But, still, I think it's the frustration people feel," said owner Chuck Love, a former Marine and owner of Love's Gun & Pawn in DeLand.

"They want to do something, so that's what they're doing -- they're buying guns."

Gun dealers said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a big surge Tuesday in requests for mandatory criminal-background checks for potential gun buyers. FDLE workers would not comment.

At Shoot Straight in Casselberry, Liam Cuddy, 36, of Chuluota bought a $300, 12-gauge shotgun, one of 35 sold by midafternoon.

He grew up around terrorism in Dublin, Ireland, but he never considered owning a gun until he watched the World Trade Center topple.

"I didn't have a gun in the house until today," said Cuddy, who lives on five acres with his wife and 8-year-old child. "This has really shocked me."

At the opposite end of the counter, Syed Hassab Qadri, 23, a day trader who lives in Maitland, was buying a handgun.

His colleagues working at a branch office of Momentum Securities on the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center almost certainly died in the attack. And fear about an anti-Islamic backlash in Central Florida prompted law enforcement to provide security for his mosque and its religious leaders, he said.

"I had been planning for a couple of weeks to get a gun," Qadri said. "But because of today's events, I decided not to wait."

In Kissimmee, the walls of Gun Land were all but stripped bare. Up to 40 people crammed into the tiny gun shop on Orange Blossom Trail.

It was the busiest day ever for a business specializing in assault rifles and handguns.

By late afternoon, Gun Land's supplier announced its warehouse was empty. There were no more guns for sale, said Ben Woodall, 51.

The run started with the first TV broadcasts of the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

"Anytime something like this happens, this happens," said Ted Bickish, manager of Rieg's Gun Shop & Shooting Range in Orlando. "It's people panicking."

The pace was much slower in Mount Dora, where the A.W. Peterson Gun Shop has been in business since 1957.

"I wouldn't say we've had a panic -- fear of invaders hitting the shores," said co-owner Steuart Baker, who sold only one deer rifle all day.

At shop after shop, dealers said their customers were somber throughout the day.

"Nobody's freaking out," Buckwald said in Daytona Beach while selling 500 rounds of ammunition. "It's more a 'What if everything breaks down?' "


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 11, 2001

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