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Shooting puts gun control front and center

FARGO - On Saturday, the day after a school shooting that left 26 victims dead in Newtown, Conn., Mills Fleet Farm in Fargo racked up gun sales that were four times what the store typically sees.

Was it the pre-Christmas spike the gun department sees every year? Or was a revived national discussion about tougher gun laws igniting a run on firearms?

Salesman Mark Wensole couldn't say.

But he quoted a customer whose decision to buy a gun seemed tied, in part, to worries the regulatory climate would take a turn.

"He did sort of make the comment: 'Well, might as well get it now, before you can't,''' said Wensole, who added that handguns made up many of the sales on Saturday.

On Monday, sales were not as brisk, but Wensole noted "as kind of odd" one customer's purchase of three C-93 semi-automatic assault rifles, which carry 30-round clips. The gun's attractive price might have been a factor, Wensole said.

In coming weeks, the types of firearms Americans should or shouldn't be allowed to own will likely be the subject of widespread debate, including in Washington, according to members of the North Dakota and Minnesota Congressional delegations.

Reviving ban?

In a written statement, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she has long supported reauthorizing the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, as well as other efforts to promote gun safety, including improving how background checks are done for people with mental illness.

"I continue to support the Second Amendment and Minnesotans' right to own guns and I also support reintroducing the assault weapons ban and other measures focused on gun safety," Klobuchar said.

Rep.-elect Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said it is a natural time to talk about gun laws, and he said he will remain open to discussing questions like: "How big does a clip need to be; what's appropriate?"

He stressed, however, that any legislation must be reviewed in light of the Constitution and the liberties it guarantees.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he's concerned any talk of regulation will revert to partisan squabbling and that no helpful solutions will result.

He said he hopes the issue will be looked at in the broadest way, including the effects of violent video games.

Peterson said anyone who thinks restrictive gun laws reduce gun crime should look at the District of Columbia as well as Connecticut, places with some of the toughest gun rules in the country, according to Peterson.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the details of what exactly happened in Connecticut need to be determined and as the investigation continues, "we need to seek better ways to protect our children and our communities."

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said in a written statement he supports "common-sense reforms that would prevent tragedies like those that have already taken innocent lives in far too many communities ... including some in Minnesota."

Franken said he has cosponsored a bill to outlaw the types of high-capacity ammunition clips used in many school shootings.

Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., could not be reached for comment.

Can't hunt with 'em

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said the search for solutions should focus on whether certain kinds of weapons, like those utilizing high-capacity clips, are reasonable for personal defense.

"That's the issue that comes to mind when you see these school shootings," Ebinger said. "They (shooters) don't have to pause to reload. It doesn't give folks a chance to flee. It's a real concern."

Alan Crowston, of Cavalier, owns more than 10 guns. But pointing to a glass case at Fleet Farm holding semi-automatic assault pistols with 30-round clips, Crowston said such weapons are where he would draw the line.

"There isn't much need for having them things, sportsmen or not," he said. "I don't know why you'd ever need one. You can't hunt with them."

Trudy Torgerson was in the store looking for gifts for her two adult sons and her husband, all of whom, she said, like to target-shoot near their Kindred home.

"I definitely believe in gun control," said Torgerson, who is a nurse.

She said she would also welcome more restriction, drawing the line at assault-type weapons with large clips.

"A lot of damage can be done, obviously," she said.