2nd Amendment fears
Obama proves a shot in the arm to Orlando-area gun shops
Henry Pierson Curtis
Sentinel Staff Writer
November 14, 2008
Gun sales are up across Central Florida, dealers say, part of a nationwide pattern after President-elect Barack Obama's open support of permanently banning assault weapons.
The buying spree reminds local sellers of a 1994 surge that preceded the 10-year ban on semiautomatic military-style rifles. The trend began last summer when anti-Obama posters became marketing tools at Florida gun shows.
"I've had record, record, record days," said Gordon Schorer, owner of the Gun Shop and Gun Range in Leesburg. "People have gone crazy."
For Schorer, the current record is 40 guns sold in one day. One of those was a .50-caliber sniper rifle that cost $10,000.
"It's not just assault rifles. They're buying 38-caliber revolvers, shotguns and hunting rifles. Anything they can get to protect themselves," said Schorer, who has almost sold out of high-capacity magazines for ammunition.
"People are really afraid of the president and the economy."
Rising gun sales have been reported across the nation in the past week. The trend cannot be documented because local, state and federal agencies do not track gun sales, but local dealers say it's real.
Concern hit fever levels last week when Obama's transition team released a four-point agenda on addressing gun violence in U.S. cities.
The points released Nov. 7 called for repealing the Tiahrt Amendment, which limits public access to information collected by the federal agents who trace the history of guns used in crimes.
Other proposals call for making guns childproof to prevent unintended injuries and deaths; closing a gun-show loophole that lets collectors sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon; and restricting ownership of assault rifles, "as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets."
Assault rifles worry cops
Law enforcement considers assault weapons the deadliest weapons in criminals' hands. A recent review by the Orlando Sentinel of 60,000 guns seized by Florida largest law-enforcement agencies showed confiscations of assault weapons in criminal cases have jumped at least 300 percent since the federal ban ended in 2004.
Concern among cops is so high about these weapons that the state's largest agency, the Miami-Dade Police Department, has ordered 3,100 weapons -- .223-caliber assault rifles -- and plans to issue one to each officer. MDPD Director Robert Parker said police must be as well-armed as criminals to protect themselves and the public.
"We think that the ban should not have expired and it should be re-enacted," Parker said in an interview before the presidential election about the attitude of top U.S. police executives toward assault weapons, which can disintegrate a brick wall with repeated fire.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that citizens have a right to own firearms, the National Rifle Association responded to Obama by advising its million-plus members to defend their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"More than ever before in your life or in the life of our nation, you need to send a message to every member of the U.S. House and Senate, every federal judge, every entrenched gun-hating bureaucrat, every legislator in your home state, and every enemy of freedom," the group said in a statement Nov. 7.
Some dealers agree
Despite such rhetoric, one Central Florida gun dealer considers some of Obama's goals reasonable.
"I looked at the agenda, and I agreed with a couple of the points and a couple I don't agree with," said Neal Crasnow, who owns three Al's Army Navy stores in Orlando, Altamonte Springs and Sanford.
Crasnow and other gun dealers interviewed oppose unrestricted private sales at gun shows. They uniformly favor aggressive prosecution and lengthy sentences for gun-related crimes instead of new restrictions on gun ownership and components, such as 30-shot magazines.
"If you think the war on drugs didn't work, the war on guns would be even worse," Crasnow said.
At Oak Ridge Gun Range off South Orange Blossom Trail, Malcom Dangler stopped in Thursday to buy a laser sight for a recently purchased 9 mm Glock pistol. It's one of several firearms and extra boxes of bullets he has bought for home defense since Obama's election.
"I voted against him, and the reason I'm purchasing a couple of guns now is the fear that he's going to raise taxes on guns and ammunition," said Dangler, an NRA member from Winter Springs. "And God knows what he's going to do to my Second Amendment rights."
A longtime shooter, Dangler does not own assault rifles. He believes in "gun regulation within reason, but if you start that, where are you going to stop?"
Prices haven't gone up, but guns cost more because dealers won't negotiate on prices now, Dangler said. The 17-shot Glock he bought cost him at least $50 more than it would have a year ago.
Crime fear boosts sales
Though sales since Obama's election are getting attention currently, gun dealers say fear of crime has boosted gun sales for more than a year.
Gun sales rise predictably whenever there is a social or economic crisis, dealers said. Two of the most memorable were in the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve 2000, when many feared computer glitches would destroy the economy, and in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We're getting lots of first-time buyers who are simply scared," said Eileen Rieg of Rieg's Gun Shop and Range on South Orange Blossom Trail, citing Orange County's rising murder numbers. The buyers are young and old, male and female, white, black and Hispanic, she said.
The threat of violent crime combined with poor economic news in recent weeks has been filling their classes for concealed-weapon permits.
"Our next opening is Dec. 22. It's usually only one to two weeks," Larry Anderson, manager of Shoot Straight Gun Shop in Apopka, said about available seats in his twice-weekly concealed-weapon-permit classes.
The same was true at Oak Ridge Gun Range in south Orange County and East Orange Shooting Sports in Winter Park. Only five shops selling guns in Orange County have ranges where students can qualify for a state concealed-weapon permit.
"The initial shock [over Obama's gun proposals] is starting to wear off, and I expect sales to mellow out some," said East Orange Shooting Sports manager John Ritz Jr. "We're adding classes."
Henry Pierson Curtis can be reached at email@example.com