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Pharmacists On Long Island Increasingly Trying To Pack Heat

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Pharmacists across Long Island are racing to protect themselves.

This action has been deemed necessary amid desperate and deadly robberies tied to painkiller abuse, reports CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan.

There is a new vigilance for rattled druggists --- security cameras, hidden panic buttons, alarms, bulletproof glass and oxycontin supplies removed.

On top of all that, pharmacists are now going for gun permits to pack a pistol.

"I hate to say it -- it's either him or me. So we are going down that road again. We are going to apply for that pistol permit and I'm going to start carrying a gun again because the current situation has pushed me to this. It's not something that I want to do. I hope I never have to use it," Uniondale pharmacist Donald Cantalino said.

Cantalino once had a gun two decades ago, but gave it up. But on the heels of David Laffer's unspeakable drug store murder spree in Medford last Father's Day and the ATF agent's killing following the recent pharmacy robbery in Seaford, he and others feel the need to protect themselves, their employees and customers from armed thugs desperate to score highly addictive painkillers.

"I don't like guns at all -- not at all. I don't even have a gun at house," Seaford pharmacist Amin Ladha said, but added when asked why he wants one, "so many robberies in my neighborhood."

Officials in Nassau and Suffolk point to a sharp increase in gun-permit applications over the past six months.

"Applications for handgun permits are up. We see a rise on people wanting to be able to defend themselves," said Andrew Chernoff of Coliseum Gun Traders.

Gun experts are explaining to pharmacists there is a six-month processing wait for background checks. And they are suggesting a basic firearms training course in safe handling and correct use.

How do customers feel about "locked and loaded" pharmacists?

"I see exactly where he's coming from, because that's scary. So he's carrying a weapon to defend himself," patron Barb Steifel said.

"So I'm in the midst of a shootout? When I'm trying to get medication? I don't think so," Caprise Johnson said.

Cantalino said he's leaving nothing to chance anymore.

"They may shoot first and ask questions later. So my new theory is I would rather be judged by 12 jurors, than carried by six pallbearers," Cantalino said.

Others are hiring retired cops, cutting back hours and refusing to fill certain prescriptions.

More than 250 of Long Island's 600 pharmacies are independent mom and pop drug stores. Many of them say they are reluctant to make changes because they want to remain "community" pharmacies.

What do you think of pharmacists packing heat? Would that make you feel more or less safe? Sound off in our comments section.

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