Fear that President-elect Barack Obama will stiffen gun legislation has sent sales of firearms and ammunition soaring around the country.
Wyoming and the rest of the nation are feeling the effects of possible changes in gun control laws and policy. The result is unprecedented sales of firearms and ammunition. Across the country gun enthusiasts and supporters are turning out to buy guns and ammunition in record numbers.
Shawn Wagner, store manager for Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Casper, said the increase in gun sales is because of the presidential election.
“We have tripled or quadrupled our gun sales the last week and one half and increased ammunition sales,” Wagner said. “We are selling lots of everything across the board. We are sold out of almost every AR (assault) rifle and we are seeing a lot of sales in semi-automatic rifles. We are also selling a lot of hunting rifles.”
Wagner said that Saturday his store set a record for sales by Rocky Mountain Discount Sports stores in the Rocky Mountain region, topping the previous 25-year record by 40 percent.
Cheyenne is also experiencing a run on guns. Guns and Gear owner Frank Gerstenkorn said last week his store set four sales records on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Gerstenkorn has owned his gun store for one and a half years and said he also owned a gun store in California when President Bill Clinton was elected. When Clinton was elected, he was also expected to increase restriction on gun ownership.
“The day of the election there was no change,” Gerstenkorn said. “The day after that there wasn’t a change. By Saturday and Sunday we were sold out. I sold 13 handguns in two and one half hours. This time I was more prepared. This is a replay of earlier years. As demand goes up, inventory goes down and prices go up. I bought heavily to try to keep prices down for my customers. All of my suppliers are sold out of military-type weapons. The people who are buying guns, rifles and ammunition are an interesting cross-section - young people to older people. Yesterday I sold a gun to a man with a walker.”
Gerstenkorn said customers have good reason for increased gun buying.
“There will be a number of attempts in Congress to limit the ability to purchase and possess firearms,” Gerstenkorn said.
Gary Kirchhefer, owner of Gary’s Gun Shop, LLC in Torrington takes a similar view.
“Most gun enthusiasts feel that there will be a change in gun control legislation,” Kirchhefer said. “Sales are up. There are a lot of items we can’t get like the AR15 and that sort of thing and some ammo is hard to get.”
Whether gun control laws will change once Obama takes office is debatable. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said he does not think that Obama will be able to stand up against the anti-Second Amendment wing of the Democratic Party that has been “spoiling for a chance to ban America’s guns.”
Obama has said he respects Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms but favors “common sense” gun laws. Most gun rights advocates interpret this to mean that he will enact laws to curb ownership of assault and concealed weapons. Gun advocates also fear that the new administration will try to ban some guns and raise the taxes on ammunition.
As a U.S. senator, Obama voted to leave gun makers and dealers open to lawsuits and as an Illinois state legislator he supported a ban on semiautomatic weapons and tighter restrictions on all firearms. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action (www.nraila.org) claims Obama is a real threat to Second Amendment liberties. They say that he: voted to ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting, endorsed a 500 percent increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition, endorsed a complete ban on handgun ownership, voted to uphold local gun bans and the criminal prosecution of people who use firearms in self-defense and supported a proposal to ban gun stores within five miles of a school or park, which they allege would eliminate every gun store in America.
However, these claims have been disputed by several individuals and organizations, including Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank and the non-partisan political fact-checking Web site www.factcheck.org. In an article titled “NRA takes low road on Obama” written prior to the election, Crank said he opposes the NRA position.
“Senator Obama’s positions on gun issues are well known and have been frequently expressed during the course of this campaign,” Crank said. “He supports the Second Amendment and the constitutional right, recognized by the U.S. Supreme court, of law-abiding citizens to own, use and enjoy firearms. He has no secret plan to take away our shotguns, rifles, or handguns. He does not support a nationwide licensing system for the purchase of firearms. He does not support banning the use of firearms possessed by citizens to defend their home and family from criminals who would seek to harm them.
“The NRA has unfortunately chosen to attack his effort to become the next president of the United States with false, deceptive and distorted statements,” Crank said.
Whether there will be a change in gun control legislation once Obama takes office remains to be seen. However, in Wyoming and other states where guns are part of life for many, the public isn’t taking any chances.
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