Jason Kravarik and Sara Sidner, CNN, November 11, 2014
Lately, Dan McMullen has been bringing an extra gun to his office in Ferguson, Missouri.
McMullen runs Solo Insurance on West Florissant close to where looting and vandalism briefly broke out in early August after a police officer shot to death teenager Michael Brown.
“I bring an extra gun now only because it has a bigger magazine,” McMullen says. He began carrying it after tensions increased in the area following the shooting. He says he would never use it to protect his business, but he would use it to save his life.
“So maybe I get trapped here or something and have to have a John Wayne shootout,” McMullen says before interrupting himself, smiling. “That’s the silly part about it: Is that going to happen? Not a chance. But I guess, could it? I’m the only white person here.”
McMullen is particularly cautious now, as all of Ferguson and much of the nation waits to see whether a grand jury will indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting. Though the grand jury has until January to issue its ruling, the prosecutor’s office has said a decision could come in mid-November.
McCullen warns others considering getting a gun not to be reckless. When his adult son told him he wanted a gun to protect himself after the grand jury decision, McMullen warned him not to rush into it.
“People like him need to think about it, and not think about ‘I’m worried about this stuff,’ ” McMullen says.
On Monday, Steven King, who owns Metro Shooting Supplies told CNN that customers bought 100 guns this weekend. A typical weekend brings in about 30 buyers.
“People are afraid they are gonna throw Molotov cocktails,” says King, referring to the mostly nonviolent protests that have taken place in Ferguson since the shooting.
The increase in gun sales reaches across racial and ethnic lines, he says.
“A lot of black people coming in saying they are afraid of the hooliganism,” he says.
At Metro Shooting Range in nearby Bridgeton, Missouri, manager John Stephenson says gun sales are up 40 to 50% as of last week.
“Every time that door opens, we’re seeing new faces,” Stephenson says. Many new customers tell him they’re concerned about the response to the grand jury decision.
The bulk of the weapons sold to new buyers are home defense shotguns. “We’ve sold tons,” he says.
Just down the street from the Ferguson Police Department, hair salon owner Constance Garnett is praying for the best, but her brothers are helping her prepare for the worst.
The shop she’s run for 11 years, Taste of Honey, on South Florissant, now looks like it’s ready for a hurricane, completely boarded up.
She takes one look at her shop and shakes her head at the sight.
“It’s hurtful, it’s really, really hurtful,” Garnett says over the sound of hammers and drills behind her. “We don’t have the constant flow of customers that we normally have coming through here because everybody is afraid.”
“It only takes one in 10 with bad intentions to make the entire situation spiral out of control,” says Sgt. Brian Schellman with the St. Louis County Police Department.
“A few protesters take it above and beyond not just aimed at police anymore but sometimes these threats are going against police officers’ families.”
McMullen, the insurance company owner, hates to see the business that he’s run for 20 years look the way it does. “I hate the boards,” he says. But he obliged his landlord who offered to install them.
“I don’t like them here, but I don’t want my windows smashed out either,” he says.
McMullen is one of the few white business owners in this part of Ferguson. He says he knows most residents just want to speak their minds without violence, but he says it’s “the crazies” that worry him.
“People who aren’t afraid are stupid because fear keeps your mind alert and keeps yourself protected,” McMullen says. And for him, so does the concealed weapon he carries.