GRAFTON — Business was slow Tuesday evening at Bullseye Firearms & Supplies, but gun store owners locally and nationally say sales have been up since the re-election of President Barack Obama, partially due to fears he’ll push for stricter gun laws.
“People just get antsy,” said Bullseye co-owner Rich Guyeska.
Guyeska said the increase in sales isn’t as great as after the 2008 election of Obama, when hoarding of ammunition caused national shortages. Guyeska and employee Todd Clement said that while sales of semiautomatic rifles are up — something they partially attribute to the start of hunting season — pistols are their biggest seller.
Obama got poor marks from gun control groups in his first term, signing laws allowing guns to be carried in national parks and in luggage on Amtrak trains. He didn’t push for renewal of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 and involved semiautomatic pistols and rifles with high-capacity magazines. However, in the second presidential debate, Obama said he’d like to see it renewed because “weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets.”
Nonetheless, Obama noted that conventional pistols are responsible for much of the violence in cities like his hometown of Chicago. He said the ban needs to be part of a comprehensive anti-violence strategy, including providing better education and more jobs in cities with high murder rates.
“Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Obama said. “But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.”
While violent and property crimes are at historic lows nationally, Guyeska and Clement, both LaGrange residents, said they’ve had burglaries at their properties in the last two years. They said the statistics are no comfort to customers.
Guyeska, who also teaches concealed carry classes, said customers and class members often say they or their neighbors have been burglary victims.
“People are concerned and want to be able to protect themselves,” Guyeska said.
Sales have been up 15 to 20 percent at Buds Firearms in Elyria since the election, according to store owner Cal Shindler. Shindler said some customers express fear of renewal of the ban. The ban forbid sales of high-capacity magazines like the 30-round one used by shooter Jared Loughner in the Tucson massacre last year.
Loughner killed six and wounded 19, including then U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., with a pistol. The 100-round drum for a semiautomatic rifle used by the shooter in the July massacre in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and wounded 58, was also illegal during the ban.
Shindler, who said some fears may be “irrational,” said some customers fear gun confiscation through the United Nations Arms Treaty although the treaty would only affect U.S. gun exports if the president signed it. Shindler said other customers fear high crime if the economy collapses or if there are prolonged electrical outages.
“Everybody’s got their own rumor. Nobody knows the truth,” he said. “This could be just another way to raise the price of guns and ammo so somebody could benefit. We don’t know.”
Because a well-maintained gun can last a lifetime, critics say the gun industry has to sell more guns to stay in business. Becca Knox, research director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the gun industry and its lobbyists are stoking fears to sell more guns.
“It’s not a new tactic,” Knox wrote in an email. “They get cold hard cash and we get homicides, suicides and accidental shootings of 3-year-olds by their 5-year-old siblings.”
Knox noted a 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Management estimated Americans owned between 218 million to 283 million guns in 2004. The study found the average gun owner owned an average of seven guns in 2004 compared with four in 1994.
Jacqueline Otto, a National Rifle Association spokeswoman, said purchasing more guns because of fears of restrictions makes sense. Despite Obama saying he interpreted the Second Amendment to give individuals — rather than citizen militias — the right to own guns, Otto said he is antigun.
She said Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justices Obama appointed in his first term, are anti-Second Amendment. “That’s going to affect the rights of gun owners for 40 years,” she said.
While law enforcers like Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck have called for banning high-capacity magazines, Otto said the NRA will fight proposed stricter gun laws. Otto contends they penalize law-abiding citizens rather than keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
Guyeska agrees. Guyeska said he takes his federal license to sell guns seriously and has refused to sell guns to people he believed were suspicious even though he legally could have.
Guyeska said he worries about criminals getting guns through straw purchases or Internet sales but is skeptical that stricter laws will reduce violence. He noted there has long been a black market for guns.
“There’s so many high-capacity magazines and firearms out in the world right now, that there’s no possible way they could be recalled, recouped or taken away,” he said. “All you’re going to do by implementing a ban is stop legitimate, law-abiding citizens from buying anything today.”
By the numbers
- 218 million to 283 million: Number of guns in the U.S.
- 7: Average number of guns owned by individual gun owners.
- 31,593: Number of people killed by guns in 2008.
- 18,223: Gun suicides in 2008.
- 12,179: Gun homicides in 2008.
- 87 (33 murders): Average number of people killed by guns per day.
- 457: Number of shootings involving semiautomatic rifles since expiration of assault weapons ban in 2004 through July (including 2008 killing of woman in Elyria).
- 48,854: Number of federally licensed firearms dealers.
- 13,159: Number of inspections by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and in last fiscal year.
- Sources: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard School for Public Health
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.