Like retail outlets around the country in the final week before Christmas, the Schmidt & Titoni Firearms shop in Santa Rosa was bustling Tuesday, its mostly regular customers patiently vying for one of the store's four busy partners to help them conduct their business.
Co-owner Victor Titoni said a surge in sales is fairly typical amid the talk of tougher gun control laws that inevitably follows a mass shooting, in this case one that left 28 dead, 20 of them children, in Newtown, Conn., last week.
Gun enthusiasts come out to buy when they fear their options might be limited in the future, Titoni said.
"They all know," he said. "They go, 'Uh, oh. Here comes more gun regulation.' "
Most of those in the store said they weren't there in panic, but were making purchases they'd planned before anyone outside Connecticut ever heard of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
They expect gun control advocates will try to leverage the mass slaying to promote stricter regulations on weapons and ammunition. But the facts emerging from Newtown suggest the problem lay not with the weapons, they said, but with the man who busted into a grade school Friday with three of his mother's guns and opened fire.
"He made a bad choice," said Santa Rosa hunter Jeff Callaghan, 33. "That's all there is to that."
"I don't think taking people's guns away really has anything to do with that," said Graton resident Raymond Green, 71.
Pundits and politicians are describing the stunning Newtown massacre as a "tipping point" in the nation's acceptance of firearms regulation -- the kind of watershed moment that might reverse what the Gallup polling organization says is 13 years of diminishing support for stricter gun controls, despite the shock over high-profile killings at Virginia Tech University, Aurora, Colo., Fort Hood, Texas, and many others.
Within hours of the Newtown shooting, political leaders were calling for action to curtail the availability of high-powered weapons and high-capacity ammunition.