REDDING (KPIX 5) – California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. KPIX 5 went to the gun buying capital of California to see how the laws are working in practice.

Located three hours north of San Francisco, Shasta County has the highest number of gun sales per capita in the state. It averages 57 background checks per 1,000 residents versus 19 for the rest of the state. It’s a place where gun control and gun ownership co-exist.

“We’re kind of on our own island you know, I mean we don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle and somebody yelling in our ears about why we own guns or why we drive 4×4 pickups or why we have George W. Bush bumper stickers on our bumper five years after the election or whatever. Nobody questions that up here,” said Rich Howell, owner of Olde West Gun and Loan.

Gun sales are booming at Howell’s store, up more than 50 percent in sales since December, despite a raft of new state gun control laws pending.

Gun instructor Sissy Arey said that it’s never too early to buy a kid his first gun. Residents claimed to have purchased guns from .22 caliber rifles to .410 shotguns for unborn babies as baby shower gifts.

“I don’t think we need any more restrictions. California has the most restrictions that any other state in the union,” said Arey.

At Olde West Gun and Loan, Shasta County resident Judy Schmid decided on a .22 caliber rifle, knowing full well she won’t walk out of the store with it for 10 days.

“Doesn’t bother me at all,” Schmid said.

What does bother Schmid are a host of other restrictions that people without permits have to undergo before getting a gun.

The test to get a handgun consists of 30 questions, 10 being true or false and 20 are multiple choice. After a purchaser passes the test, a card is issued and federal along with state paperwork is filled out. After the 10-day waiting period, purchasers must complete a safe handling test before the gun is released.

These are steps not required of gun owners in states such as Texas or Idaho. Shasta County is something of a gun control guinea pig. It’s a glimpse of the impact that new federal gun control laws could have on gun-loving states nationwide. But the laws have done nothing to dampen a passion for firearms.

“In 2006, we had about 2,300 concealed carry licenses or permits in Shasta County,” Shasta County’s Sherriff Tom Bosenko said. “Right now we have about 43, 44-hundred, with another 400 in the process of being approved.”

It’s a sign that gun culture can still thrive despite growing gun control. Still, residents in this gun capital fear that their firearm freedoms are being chipped away.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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