Inside a plain-looking single-story green building near Meyers Lake, Dennis DeVault and his employees have outfitted competitive trap and clay shooters across the country for 23 years. From the street, few probably realize what DeVault Industries makes or sells. “We try to keep it low-key,” DeVault said.
Inside a plain-looking single-story green building near Meyers Lake, Dennis DeVault and his employees have outfitted competitive trap and clay shooters across the country for 23 years.
From the street, few probably realize what DeVault Industries makes or sells. Using an array of hand tools and machining equipment, his crew transforms blocks of hardwoods into custom rifle stocks, which sell for $3,000 or more; a full custom-made single-barrel shotgun goes for $13,000.
“We try to keep it low-key,” DeVault said.
DeVault is one of 10 companies in Stark County licensed by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to manufacture guns. That means they not only sell, but also make firearms, whether it’s from scratch, assembling or modifying.
Companies like them exist because of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights, which reads: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Its meaning has been argued for many of the 222 years since its adoption. The U.S. Supreme Court has said the right to bear arms applies to individuals, but hasn’t weighed in on the depth and breadth of those rights.
The outcome of the nation’s ongoing gun control debate may ultimately help further define the meaning of the Second Amendment. At the same time, the result could affect the livelihood of those who make a living in the $33 billion a year firearms industry in this country.
The Repository recently visited three local gun manufacturers.
PROTECT AND SERVE
“I’m definitely not a precision machinist,” explained Richard Hart, who operates Hart’s Guns as a side business from an outbuilding behind his house in Lake Township. “I’m more of a gun assembler.”
The 32-year-old former Marine competed on the NCAA pistol team at The Ohio State University. For the past six years, he’s worked as a patrol officer with the Canton Police department.
“I was always interested in the military and weapons ... when I was younger,” said Hart, whose father is a former Canton councilman.
Hart calls himself politically moderate.
As a police officer, he once confiscated an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle from a 12-year-old boy in Canton’s “Newton Zone,” a haven for drug, prostitution and other criminal activity in the near northwest area.
It didn’t change his mind on the right to bear arms.
“Is passing laws going to disarm crazies or criminals?” Hart asked. “Of course not. I think it’s best that people do arm themselves, because desperate people do desperate things.”
He opposes bans on semi-automatic weapons. He said limits on the number of shots a magazine can fire would also be wasted effort. Lower-capacity magazines of 10 shots can be as deadly as a 17-shot high capacity magazine in the right hands, Hart said. He went on to demonstrate how quickly a skilled shooter can load a fresh magazine into a handgun.
Page 2 of 3 - “There’s no point,” he said, as he completed the switch in less than two seconds.
Hart said there are plenty of gun laws in effect.
“But what are we doing to prosecute the felons who have guns? That’s where we need to get tougher,” he said.
VANISHING GUN RIGHTS
Dave Laubert will resign as a vocational school shop teacher in June to devote all his time to a firearms company he runs from the basement of his home in Alliance. Only a side business for the past 14 years, Laubert will turn his Defensive Creations Gunsmithing into a full-time career.
He counts local police officers among his many regular customers. Laubert’s pride and joy is his custom-made version of Browning’s 1911 Government .45-caliber handgun. He dubs it a “timeless classic.” It sells for $1,800, not including add-ons.
Laubert opposes firearms bans.
“We’ve become content with laws that were passed before ... but they have to quit taking away,” he said.
Federal law created minimum standards; however, individual states also have their own laws. Some provide more stringent restrictions, while others have enacted more lenient guidelines.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits gun sales to certain people. They include those less than 18 years old, those with criminal records, the mentally disabled, illegal aliens, and dishonorably discharged military veterans. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 was added, to require background checks of those who purchase a gun from a federally licensed dealer.
“There’s already a ton of laws on the books,” Laubert said.
Critics often point out the so-called gun show loophole. It allows anyone, including convicted felons, to buy firearms without a background check, if it’s purchased from a private seller at one of the shows.
There currently are no laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, military-style .50-caliber rifles, or handguns. A federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was in effect between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed the restrictions to expire.
President Obama has called for tougher federal gun control laws. And last week, legislators in Connecticut and Maryland passed more strict state laws, banning certain weapons and high-capacity magazines. In Connecticut, gun-buyers will need a state-issued eligibility certificate; and in Maryland, they’ll have to submit fingerprints.
DeVault blames the media for “hyping” the gun control issue.
“I never feel safer than when I’m at a gun club or competition,” DeVault said. “We’re talking about thousands of people and hundreds of guns ... never in history has anyone been shot.”
He blames society, poor parenting and mental illness for such shootings as Newtown and Columbine.
“Affluent white folks never want to admit they spawned a defective child,” he said. “We’ve become a society of social rejects, with kids who never hear the word ‘no.’ They don’t know how to handle rejection.”
Page 3 of 3 - What’s more, he said parents would be better off to educate their children about guns, rather than shield them. Viewing guns as taboo objects, DeVault said, only increases the child’s curiosity.
“It is a privilege to own a firearm,” he added.
DeVault said he doesn’t trust the government on the issue of gun control.
“Do you think the government really cares if we shoot each other?” he asked. “It’s about people control and controlling the masses. It’s about political grandstanding. It’s not about gun control.”
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On Twitter: @tbotosREP