As I was walking through the ammunition aisle at my local Bass Pro Shops, I muttered to the man standing next to me how disappointingly empty the shelves were. “Not as bad as last week,” he said. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Back in February, Cabelas, a publicly-traded outdoor outfitter saw its stock go up 35% in one day when earnings blew away estimates because of very strong “sales of firearms and related accessories.”
If President Obama has stimulated anything in America, it is demand for guns and ammunition. According to Rich Wyatt, the voluble and intense owner of Gunsmoke — a firearms shop and training facility just outside Denver — “If I had known it would be this good in the gun business, I might have voted for Obama.”
It’s not just a couple of stores seeing a run on guns and even more so on ammunition. From local gun shops to WalMart to sporting goods stores, the story is the same: When the store gets a shipment of ammo, particularly .45, 9mm, and .38 handgun ammunition, “people come in and they buy it all.”
The manager of a local gun shop where I’ve been a customer told me that business has doubled since the election. Whereas the typical first time buyer pre-election had generally been a 30- or 40-something male, first time gun buyers now include more younger people, older people, and women than in the past. “They’re buying semi-automatic pistols and shotguns for home defense, as well as ‘concealed weapons’. There’s also a strong interest in ‘black guns’,” military-style rifles, both from people who want to buy them “because they can” as well as others who believe they’ll be able to sell them at higher prices someday soon.
Where politics was rarely mentioned during a gun purchase a year ago, the store manager says at least 60% of his customers mention the Obama administration now.
At Rich Wyatt’s Gunsmoke, “We are getting ‘Prius-driving Obama people’ buying guns because they realize they picked the wrong pony…even though they never admit it.” Just like my local gun shop, Wyatt has “old ladies and young people and liberals” buying guns. He says that while there were spikes in gun buying during the Clinton administration, during the Rodney King riots, and even just before Y2K, he’s never seen anything remotely on this scale.
A customer I spoke with at Bass Pro Shops (the employees wouldn’t speak with me for an article) actually owns a gun shop, but he was buying ammunition there because his wholesaler had run out. His customers are hoarding ammunition and, to a lesser extent, guns. He described a recent spectacle at a gun show where one vendor had a relatively large supply of ammunition and customers were swarming around him buying 50 boxes at a time…and not at a bargain price.
At Dick’s Sporting Goods, they were almost out of .45 ammunition after having received a shipment just that morning. Not only are people buying as much ammunition as they can find and afford, they’re doing it during the work day rather than taking the chance that it will be gone by the weekend.
As if the message weren’t clear enough, a sign at a local WalMart said “Due to the increased demand from customers for ammunition, our suppliers are increasing production…” A salesman said that their ammunition supply is now infrequent and unpredictable: “We used to get shipments almost every day. Now we only know we’ll have it when we see it. I get at least a half-dozen calls a day asking for ammunition, especially for handguns, and when it arrives, the customers buy everything.”
Over at Gunsmoke, Rich Wyatt says “Now, it’s not what the ammo costs; it’s ‘do you have it?’”
Much of the demand for ammunition is due to an NRA advertising campaign during election season which described Barack Obama’s historical positions on gun issues, including having said that he would support a 500% federal tax on guns and ammunition. And while it is true that Obama has not made many anti-gun statements recently, gun rights expert David Kopel explains clearly that Barack Obama is easily the most anti-gun President in US history.
In his 2004 Senate campaign, Barack Obama said he would like to ban concealed carry permits. Now that Obama is President, Gunsmoke’s concealed carry courses are selling out class after class (50 people in each) in addition to their 3-day pistol classes, which are already sold out through June.
“People are petrified…afraid for their rights that Obama is going to attack. And while Obama says he doesn’t support banning guns, a 500% tax would effectively be a financial ban on both guns and ammunition. I think the left’s goal is that in 50 or 100 years, there are people who don’t even know that they could have bought guns or ammunition.”
Colorado is several months behind in processing concealed carry permits because of demand. Last month, it was reported that Florida “is buried under a backlog of 95,000 applications for concealed-weapons permits and it needs to hire a lot more people to handle the paperwork.” In Georgia, firearm permits were up 79% in 2008 over 2007. In Oklahoma, the number is around 90%. In Ohio, the number of concealed carry licenses issued in the 4th quarter of 2008 was 111% higher than the 4th quarter of 2007.
Wyatt’s concealed carry classes emphasize the basics of gun use, safety, and the law, but “It’s Politics 101 as well, trying to make sure people understand not only their rights regarding guns but also the Constitution and their rights and responsibilities as American citizens.” He tries to make sure people are conscious of the “boiling the frog” approach by government to infringing on our rights, and gun rights in particular, just slowly enough that the average person might not notice. Just be prepared, he warns, for the return of government saying “We’re not banning all guns…just these guns.” And that’s part of the reason that there’s so much demand for ‘these’ guns, which is to say just about every type of gun you can imagine.
Since the election, the shares of gunmaker Smith & Wesson have more than doubled, with competitor Ruger’s shares up nearly as much. Two weeks ago a large gun and ammunition manufacturer, Olin Corp. raised its earnings guidance, anticipating a record quarterly profit for its Winchester ammunition division. The American public is speaking, and they’re saying in no uncertain terms that they don’t believe President Obama’s claims to support gun rights since his history says something very different.
Rich Wyatt’s position is typically none too subtle: “Barack Obama is right about one thing. We are clinging to God and our guns, and I defy him to try to take either one from us.”
As for me, after a day of thinking about the Obama administration and guns, I bought my local WalMart’s last box of .38 caliber ammunition.