Ohioans stock up on gas masks, guns

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Ohioans worried about terrorist attacks at home are stocking up on military-style meals, gas masks and guns - even as some of those selling them question the wisdom of buying items customers aren't trained to use.

Federal homeland security officials have advised Americans to stock up on nonperishable food, water, portable radios and other supplies during the war.

Gas masks and chemical protection suits are not on the list, but some customers want them anyway, said managers of military supply stores.

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The masks probably won't protect the buyers, said Bob Hupp, director of the Clark County Emergency Management Agency in Springfield in western Ohio.

''If a biological incident hits, you won't know about it, and you will already be exposed before you put the gas mask on,'' he said.

In northeast Ohio, Damon Bryant of Warren bought a shotgun and ammunition for his 9mm handgun Thursday morning at the Gander Mountain store in Niles in northeast Ohio.

''With the threat of terrorist attacks … you never know what is going to happen,'' said Bryant, 31, a guard at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. ''Lately I haven't been prepared, but now it's time.''

Gander Mountain's gun department sold about 30 handguns in one weekend after the nation's terror alert level increased. Other sales have waned in recent weeks, fishing/archery manager Josh Hartman said.

Customers have bought almost all handguns at Dabec G.I. Joes, a military surplus store in Springfield, said owner David Minard. He said many of the customers have never handled guns and he urges them to sign up for gun-safety courses.

Minard also advises against buying the chemical suits.

''If you don't know how to decontaminate yourself or your clothing, you can poison yourself taking it off,'' Minard said.

In Dayton, GS Outfitters sold out of the type of gas mask commonly used by Israeli civilians.

''We've sold 200 to 300 gas masks in the last month and a half, and we've got maybe 60 left, some American models, some Swiss, some Canadian,'' said Tony Faeta, who buys military surplus items and similar stock for GS Outfitters.