We're afraid and armed WEAPONS PURCHASES ON RISE
Business is booming at gun shops
Date published: 3/28/2009
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
President Barack Obama has stimulated at least one part of the economy: gun sales.
Fears that he and Democratic congressional leaders will outlaw or restrict guns and ammunition, along with worries about the economy, have helped spur a hefty increase in sales of guns and ammunition.
Sturm, Ruger and Co. reported a $48 million backlog in orders as of Dec. 31, and a 42 percent increase in sales in 2008.
Smith and Wesson earlier this month reported a 45 percent increase in handgun sales.
The Virginia State Police, which tracks each request for a background check--required for each gun purchase--reported a 19 percent increase in 2008, including a 60 percent increase in November over the previous November.
The usual year-to-year increase is about 3 percent.
And Georgia Arms, a large ammunition-sales company, posted on its Web site that it has a "huge increase in demand" and that shipping times are five to seven weeks behind.
"Obama's been the best gun salesman," said Anthony Ball, owner of B&B Pawn Inc. in Fredericksburg. "Everybody's scared to death he's going to take away their guns."
A whole wall of Ball's store is lined with racks of rifles, shotguns and a few assault rifles. Cases are full of handguns, and Ball says guns are a big seller in his store.
While most of his stock is used guns, he says it's nearly impossible to get new guns or ammunition from suppliers. And when you can find new guns, prices are way up.
At The Range, a shooting range in Stafford County, it's the same story.
"I'm still waiting on guns I ordered back in December," said Paul Vincent. "It's hard to find ammo, it's hard to find the gun you want."
The Range doesn't sell a lot of handguns. It's more of a shooting range, but Vincent said interest in all of the Range's services has increased in the past few months.
The classes he offers--a basic how-to-shoot class for beginners, and the class required to get a concealed carry permit--have seen participation quadruple.
"Normally I just schedule one here and there," Vincent said. "Now it's every week."
Vincent said there's a surge in gun sales any time a Democrat gets elected president. People get paranoid, he said.
"We saw this during both of Clinton's elections. And Y2K," Vincent said.
Philip Van Cleave, of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he's definitely seen an increase in every aspect of the firearms business--gun sales, ammo sales and attendance at gun shows, where guns, ammunition and other items are sold.
"People have waited hours to get into a gun show," Van Cleave said. "Normally you'd be able to get in in a few minutes or just walk in."
A normal gun show in Northern Virginia, he said, would see 7,000 or 8,000 people. The last one had 17,000.
Interest in Van Cleave's organization has gone up as well--his 8,000-strong e-mail list is now at 11,000 and climbing.
Like Vincent and Ball, Van Cleave credits fears about possible restrictions on guns for spurring the interest in them, but he calls that one part of "the perfect storm, a series of things coming together."
One of the other things is fear about the economy.
People worry the economy might actually collapse.
Van Cleave said people think that would lead to civil unrest, and that they should have a gun in case they'd have to defend themselves and their homes.
Some people are also worried there will be another terrorist attack--one that could put government services, like police, out of commission.
It has all contributed to an uptick in sales that Van Cleave says started back around October and "went crazy in December."
The greater demand for guns and ammunition leads, of course, to less supply, but less supply also leads to greater demand. People get worried they won't be able to buy something later, and so they buy more of it now.
"It's a good problem" for those who sell guns and ammunition, Ball said. "I've got people coming in that I've never seen before. People buy a lot out of fear."
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028