The line was out the door at the Buffalo Gun Center in Cheektowaga on Tuesday morning.
At Niagara Gun Range in North Tonawanda, the gun shop had long ago run out of AR-15s and AK-47s.
And at S&S Taxidermy in Springville, background checks for gun buyers that normally take just a few minutes were dragging on for an hour.
“The whole system is getting bogged down,” sighed Bob Wolf, a worker at S&S.
Gun enthusiasts across the region were snapping up AR-15s and other high-powered rifles, ammunition and gun accessories as fast as they could Tuesday as word spread that state legislators were on the brink of enacting sweeping new gun-control laws.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Kaied Morshed, who described himself as an “American blood citizen” and self-employed masonry contractor from Cheektowaga.
He was one of dozens of gun enthusiasts who stood outside the Buffalo Gun Center on Harlem Road in freezing temperatures for a half hour or more to buy firearms that would be banned under the new legislation.
Morshed came to the store before work after hearing the news Tuesday morning that the State Senate approved the gun-control bill and that the Assembly was expected to follow sometime later in the day. The legislation was swiftly enacted later in the day, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed it into law.
Morshed had been interested in buying an AR-15, which gun-rights advocates say has been wrongly labeled as an assault rifle and is among the kinds of weapons banned by the state.
“They wanted $3,000,” he said, which was too steep for him.
AR-15s used to sell for under $2,000, he said, but that was before the mass shootings last month and widespread debate over the availability of such weapons.
Morshed opted for a more affordable shotgun with a pistol grip, which he believes would be banned under the new law. He did not have it with him as he left the store, but he was carrying a bag of 50 shotgun shells.
Morshed explained that he intended to pick up the shotgun later in the day because he didn’t have time to wait for the background check to clear – a process that was taking extra long Tuesday, presumably because of the sudden high demand.
Morshed doesn’t believe the new state law or proposals on the national level will do anything to stop criminals or even mass shootings.
To put an end to all gun violence, he said, “you’d have to remove every weapon from the entire United States of America.”
Another Cheektowaga man who declined to give his name also bought a pistol-grip shotgun Tuesday morning. He carried it in a long cardboard box as he left the shop.
The 24-year-old tech support worker said he also has two other guns, a .223-caliber and a .22-caliber. “I’m well-rounded,” he said, smiling.
The man said he enjoys target shooting and believes in exercising his right to bear arms.
Like many outside the Cheektowaga gun shop, the man said he believed the new law will punish law-abiding gun owners.
“I don’t think it’s going to stop criminals” from obtaining weapons, he said.
If people really want banned guns, he said, they’ll drive to another state, like Pennsylvania, with laxer laws or obtain them illegally.
Another man, who would identify himself only as “Randy,” said politicians’ talk about gun control is driving up the cost of guns.
“This used to be $20,” he said, referring to a paper bag filled with ammunition. “Now it’s $70.”
“Obama started an arms race,” he said.
Jim Scofield, of Forestville, drove into the parking lot on his way back from Veterans Affairs Medical Center and was surprised to see the line.
He had planned on picking up a few items but decided against it because he didn’t want to wait in the cold.
“I’ll wait until the smoke clears,” he said with a smile.
Scofield disagreed with the new gun law, saying he doesn’t believe it’ll stop a killer.
“It would be better to ban insanity,” he said. “I would rather they put a ban on assault hammers.”
Wilson Curry, of Williston Auctions and Aurora Firearms, said he is distressed by the news out of Albany.
“I am concerned. I just don’t know what to think,” said Curry, who specializes in antique and collectible guns and doesn’t sell weapons like the AR-15.
He pointed out, like many other gun enthusiasts have, that guns such as the AR-15 are not actual “assault weapons” but are semiautomatic rifles. They are not automatic machine guns that can spray bullets with a single trigger pull, he emphasized.
“They fire one shot at a time,” he said, adding that he owns an AR-15.
Curry, who gave an interview by phone from the Shot Show, a massive gun convention in Las Vegas, said the booths where guns such as the AR-15 are on display were especially popular.
Prices on such weapons have doubled and even tripled nationwide, he said.
He’s also concerned that the proposed bans have set off a gun-buying panic – and could trigger more terrible acts. “It’s going to get ugly,” Curry said. “I fear more tragedy because of this.”
At the Niagara Gun Range on Tuesday, the phone was ringing off the hook, and several people stopped by hoping to snap up an AR-15 or AK-47.
But a sales representative who answered the phone said the store had run out about a week ago. Sales of assault rifles picked up after President Obama’s speech calling for tightening of gun legislation that came days after the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“They just keep coming in and asking, and we don’t have any,” said the worker, who added that the North Tonawanda shop has stopped taking orders, too. “We can’t find any anywhere,” she said.
At S&S Taxidermy in Springville, Wolf said sales were more than brisk.“Really,” he said, “we’re getting blown away.” He estimated that there were about 10 times the normal number of customers in his store Tuesday.
Wolf noted that background checks, which usually take less than five minutes, were taking far longer, a problem experienced by some but not all gun stores in the area Tuesday.
“My partner has been on the phone doing background investigations for an hour,” Wolf said.