MALTA — The sign at Zack’s Sports says store hours are 11-8, but the doors were opened on Tuesday well before that.
By 11 a.m., customers could barely navigate the store packed with people. A dozen deep lined up for the register, while the parked cars along Route 9 extended 100 yards in each direction from the filled parking lot near Round Lake.
“You will have to wait,” a man behind the counter told a customer. “I ran out of toner.”
By 11:15 a.m., a tide of customers swamped the front vestibule. By lunchtime a line snaked 10-deep outside into the parking lot. Some gave up and walked away. The ones who came to get already-owned weapons serviced chuckled at their bad timing.
And still more came.
Customers came to buy weapons and ammunition before New York enacts a strict gun control law. The state Senate took a step Monday night to broaden the state’s definition of banned assault weapons, increase penalties for those convicted of illegal gun possession and create a statewide database for gun permits.
As the Assembly debated and passed the measure Tuesday, gun owners and enthusiasts battled lines and a dwindling stock to make purchases under the wire. The conversation was as thick as the crowd.
“These politicians …”
“I read the law …”
“Once they start that, forget it: It’s over. It’s a window of opportunity. …”
And many believed this was their last chance to make purchases before the law took effect. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“My girlfriend works for the state. She said, ‘You should get down here,'” said Ben Levine, a 30-year-old Army veteran from Glenmont. “People are very nervous.”
Levine bought a Ruger rifle, a tactical shotgun and 50 12-gauge rounds. He laid out roughly $3,000.
“It was painful to hand over stacks of hundreds,” he said. As for the rifle, he said it’s his second. “It’s not something that I need. But with the law I felt I should have an extra.”
As New York’s deadline approached, scenes like the one at Zack’s played out at gun shops throughout the Capital Region and state. Business has been thick across the country in the wake of President Barack Obama‘s re-election and calls for tough gun restrictions after the December shooting that left 26 dead at a Newtown, Conn., school.
“It’s pretty bad. Pretty bad,” said Thomas Gonzalez, 24, of Albany. “The Constitution is supposed to be that one thing that’s concrete. It’s like walking down the street and worrying about whether the ground is going to cave in: You shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
A sign making the rounds and inside the store heralds Obama as “Salesman of the Year” for firearms.
“What have you accomplished?” asked Phil Goodson of Malta, looking at the swelling crowd waiting to get in. “You put more guns on the street.”
Goodson didn’t stop to buy anything. He saw the gathering and thought a local business might need his support.
“I thought it was a protest,” he said.
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