Soaring gun sales in Arizona
Planning for the worst
Jun 4th 2009 | PHOENIX
From The Economist print edition
Gun-owners are on the defensive
AT THE 's 138th annual convention, held this year in Phoenix, Arizona, 47,000 people poured through the doors. They admired the fancy firearms, snacked on grilled buffalo and were happily recruited by shooting associations. Tom Power, of the Texas Gun Collectors Association, says membership has been soaring since Barack Obama took office. Bill Bachenberg, the owner of a near Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been registering 400 new members a month. "American gun-owners don't trust this administration," he says.
American gun sales surged after Mr Obama was elected president. He had a voting record of raising the tax on guns and ammunition by 500%, and, on top of that, he hinted during the campaign that he might restrict gun sales and create a national registry of gun-owners. The election was seven months ago, and the buying spree has not flagged since. Data released by the FBI's , which serve as a gauge of actual sales, reported 1,255,980 checks in April 2009: a sixth monthly increase, and a 30.3% increase from the 940,961 reported last April.
Concealed-weapon permits are up, too. Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina and Montana all report a rise in licences issued; Ohio saw a 139% increase in the first quarter of this year over last. Meanwhile, shooting classes in Phoenix are booked solid for months, ammunition is sold out, and gunmakers and dealers alike are scrambling to keep up with demand.
Sun Devil Manufacturing in Mesa, for example, which makes semi-automatic rifles for $1,000 or so less than its competitors, is running three production shifts a day. Guns Etc, a shop in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, is selling 50-70 handguns a week, compared with 30 before the election, and sales of AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic rifles have nearly doubled. On a Friday afternoon the store is packed with men, retired and young, buying revolvers, semi-automatics and shotguns. Young mums browse the daintier pistols.
Are they all panicking? They don't think so. Mr Obama has said he favours a ban on assault weapons, of the sort Bill Clinton brought in in 1994 (it has now lapsed). Gun-owners also feel Mr Obama is soft on crime, and fear that the recession will bring social and economic collapse. Ron Sega says his customers worry about thugs looting grocery stores for milk and mothers being robbed. "People want to be ready and armed, should things go south."
In several states, are being relaxed. One bill working its way through the Arizona legislature would allow those with a concealed gun permit to enter, armed, into restaurants serving liquor. And a new state law allows people to carry loaded guns, including semi-automatic weapons, into state parks.
At a restaurant in Chandler, waitresses worry that combining weapons with alcohol, even with restrictions, seems foolhardy. But its sponsor is confident that the bill will pass. Momentum is with him. More are due to open soon in Arizona and elsewhere, to cater to more families who wish to be armed, trained and ready for anything.
Friday, 5 June 2009
us gun sales up 30%