In the only weapons shop in Thousand Oaks, anxious residents decide it's time to buy a gun

In the only weapons shop in Thousand Oaks, anxious residents decide it's time to buy a gun

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Mother of Thousand Oak's victim claims gun control after surviving the Las Vegas shootout and died in another mass shooting just one year later.
USA TODAY

The Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, location of the The USA's last major lethal mass shooting rests north of a residential area in this normally tranquil California enclave.

The horror that erupted late Wednesday night revealed Brandon Simone and his neighbor Molly, who live in apartments across the street from the bar.

Molly, who asked that her last name not be used for her own safety, opened her home and the meager first-aid kit for survivors who suffered from broken bones, open wounds, and mental suffering while awaiting medical treatment ,

After that sleepless night, Simone and Molly drove three miles down the road to VC Defense, the city's only stationary gun shop.

Simone, 35, is a single parent who has sworn never to have a gun in the same house as his child. As his teenager son, Ethan, skateboarded outside, he asked the shopkeeper what he needed to do to buy a 9-millimeter pistol.

Molly filmed VC Defense's handgun display on her cell phone and sent the video to her friend. He insisted he buy one right away.

For John von Colln, owner of VC Defense, the duo belonged to an unusually regular customer stream that day. Many of them expressed the same feeling: They had come to the gun shop because no place felt safe anymore, and they felt ill-equipped to confront the next mass shooter or armed home burglar.

In America, there is a documented phenomenon of mass shootings in which gun lovers pour into dealers to buy up-fought accessories like bumpers before they become illegal. Colln's clients on Thursday did not seem to be dealing with these guys, at least not during the few hours he allowed a reporter to stay in his shop and talk to customers.

They were driven not by the desire of a collector to hoard weapons and accessories, but by raw fear.

Some were small entrepreneurs who suddenly felt vulnerable. Many were for the first time buyers who suddenly sought weapons for self-defense. Colln had to turn down at least one customer because he did not have the necessary papers to meet California's stringent identification requirements.

A banker with business casual, designer glasses, and a gold-colored Rolex inquired if he would hide a gun under an inserted business shirt.

"I need more holsters because nowhere to go without my piece," he announced.

More: What we know about Thousand Oaks gunman Ian David Long, a marine veteran

Connected: Tracking apps provide hope, horror for families at the Thousand Oaks shoot

3 minutes terror: How the Thousand Oaks shooting unfolded

The banker only asked to be identified as John for his safety. He said his son had been outside the bar during the shootout, and two of his friends had been killed. His own fear was caught off guard in a mall where another madman was pointing with a gun.

From Colln's salesman, a burly, long-haired man in a black cap standing in front of a rifle wall, advised him to an ankle holster. If he was ever in a shooting gallery in the mall, the banker could quickly get on his back and unload.

Colln said he knew he was in the office on an unusual day on Thursday morning when he put on his work outfit out of a T-shirt and cargo shorts "Don't Tread on Me", less than twelve hours, After the shooter Ian Long opened fire on the crowded bar. The scene on Highway 101 was still a chaotic carnival of law enforcement agencies and the media as several helicopters whirred over it.

A television reporter asked if he had sold Long his mass murder weapon. Colln noted with relief that a review of his database revealed that the former Marine had never been a customer.

Colln lets customers into his little gun shop by pushing a button that releases a heavy front gate. On Thursday he could barely do paperwork until 12 noon or bring out a new gun for a customer before he had to return to the button to let someone else in.

As new customers passed through the store, the constant chatter was – apart from general expressions of hatred for the shooter – of the six unarmed police officers who were allegedly at the bar during shooting. Their lack of weapons was a suspected consequence of a California law prohibiting firearms in bars.

"At least there might be a chance" to prevent the shooting if they were armed, Von Colln said.

The former engineer who made his weapons hobby a livelihood described California's increasingly stringent weapons legislation as the work of politicians who create a labyrinth of irrational rules that are so complicated that even their law enforcement clients can not follow them.

A relative of police officers, he tears when he describes the shooting death of his cousin. "I take that very seriously, what we do," Von Colln said. "Some people would like to have all gun business done, but without a legal route, people will do it illegally."

Residents have long regarded this city as a quiet little community located forty miles from the crime and suffering of Los Angeles. But the shoot this week brought a creeping sense of homecoming that engages the outside world on Thousand Oaks.

Mike Rowan, a former correctional officer who teaches weapons training courses at the nearby Trigger Burst Training Center, said he had received calls from potential customers all Thursday motivated to obtain gun permits after the shootout.

Part of his teaching focuses on defending an active shooter, and Rowan said he expects an uptick in business similar to that after the Las Vegas massacre last year.

"They're just scared," Rowan said of this new customer base. "Unfortunately, these mass shootings are good for business, and I say that very solemnly."

Rowan described a discreet and decidedly Californian clientele. They keep within range of Priuses and Tesla and never tell their friends that they have a weapon.

"I get lots of liberals in the closet, people who would normally never have anything to do with a firearm, and I train them, and they secretly own firearms," ​​Rowan said.

Simone, who had gone to VC Defense after shooting with his neighbor, would have been counted among the anti-gun people before. He always believed that the danger of having a weapon in his house with his son outweighed any protective value, but shooting changed his thinking.

SHUT DOWN

Residents near Thousand Oaks, California, who had stormed before the shock of a mass shooting, were exposed to forest fires on Friday as a fast-moving conflagration swept through – threatening homes and evacuations. (9th of November)
AP

His neighbor Molly was less clear. She openly questioned her friend's masculinity if he was still reluctant to buy a gun. She was ready to buy one herself.

"Thirteen people would not have died" if gunmen were armed on Wednesday night, she said.

Simone described friends and family who opposed the weapon who "got around" to this train of thought, and asked him to keep them posted on how to buy a firearm in California.

He believes that the real issue behind rifle violence is not the simple purchase of firearms, but the unwillingness to handle mental health problems.

Simone used himself as an example. He said he had recently asked for advice after the death of several relatives, but was hampered by delays and bureaucracy.

"What if I was that guy?" Simone said about Long, the shooter. "I'm farthest from these guys. But I can empathize with her. "

For his teenage son Ethan, who was running around in the parking lot, it had been unreal and frightening twelve hours in Thousand Oaks. He had been woken up by gunfire and then evacuated from the school after a gun threat, while just north of them huge clouds of smoke billowed from a roaring bushfire in the hills.

He agreed with his opinion on gun control. "No matter how hard they get a gun, they'll get one," said Ethan. "I am a child and I know nothing, but I know that."

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