Gun sales have risen following presidential election

Published 12:49 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

NATCHEZ — Hunting season has started, which means business is good for local sports shops.

But it’s also good for another reason — the United States has elected a new president.

Many think the election of a Democratic president wiill lead to stricter gun control laws, and, as a result, gun sales are soaring.

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Vernon Smith of Sports Center said the increased sales are because of a fear that come January, high-powered guns will not be available.

“There’s all kinds of rumors floating around that we won’t be able to get an assault rifle,” Smith said. “How many times have you seen someone go nuts with an assault rifle in Natchez? Never. And we sell them. I sold one yesterday.”

John Kammerdeiner of Bowie’s said he’s sold approximately 20 of those guns since the Nov. 4 election.

In a normal month, Bowie’s would sell two or three.

Now he only has three left, and they won’t sell, he said, because they are the highest-priced models, costing upwards of $1,500.

Kammerdeiner said at least a few of those purchases were based on the fear that president-elect Barack Obama might ban what are commonly called assault rifles. But Kammerdeiner said they are not technically assault rifles. He calls them “black guns.”

“You can hunt with them,” he said. “They have less recoil, they’re more accurately aimed. An assault rifle, by ATF (the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) definition, is any rifle that can fire more than one shot with one depression of the trigger, and these guns cannot do that.”

To buy an actual assault rifle, one must go through a special process with extra signatures, background checks and added taxes.

Kammerdeiner said no one in the Natchez area is even licensed to sell a true assault rifle.

But when the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993 went into effect under President Bill Clinton, even semi-automatic weapons, like the ones Kammerdeiner and Smith sell, were banned.

So were bayonet mounts, telescoping or folding stocks, grenade launchers and flash suppressors.

Bayonet mounts are legal again, and with the threat of the Brady Bill returning, people want them again.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a drive-by bayoneting,” Kammerdeiner said. “It has no purpose whatsoever unless you knew what bayonet went on it.”

He said the same thing would happen if Obama were to announce a ban on SUVs. Everyone who did not have one would rush to get one before they were gone.

And Obama has already said he would like to return to the Brady Bill. Although sections of the ban expired in 2004, parts of the bill — like the mandatory background check for those purchasing firearms — are still in effect.

While it was originally a five-day waiting period during which local law enforcement officials ran a check, now vendors can call and have a check run by the FBI in about two minutes.

“Instant background checks are a great process, and the NRA lobbies every year for more money to go into that program, to make it more useful and to make sure that the process works better,” said National Rifle Association spokesperson Rachel Parsons. “The FBI looks over it, so we believe it’s a really useful tool.”

But that doesn’t mean that criminals cannot still get guns.

“Bad people are going to have guns illegally,” Smith said. “They’re not going to buy a gun — they can’t. It’s a great system, it works fine, but it doesn’t keep felons from getting guns. They steal them from you, or they let somebody buy it for them.”

That’s another reason gun sales are rising, Smith said. Many people in the Miss-Lou area are concerned about their safety, especially with recent break-ins in the area.

Smith said women who have never owned or even shot a gun are coming into the store asking what they need to stay safe.

“In the state of Mississippi, Natchez especially and the Vidalia area, how many guns does one guy have? Fifteen or 20 maybe?” Smith said. “There’s very few people that don’t have some type of gun in their home around here. And now there are ladies buying more guns, especially single ladies that don’t have anybody at home with them. When they go to bed at night, they put the hand gun by them, just in case.”

Smith said Sports Center typically sells about 1,000 guns a year, and most of those sales come between the months of October and January — peak hunting season.

But even ammunition, he believes, has been selling more lately, partly because Obama has said he would like to add a 30 percent tax to it.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Will a $10 box of bullets go up to $300? I don’t think he can get that done, but who knows. He’s got a lot of people over there on the left who don’t believe we ought to be walking around with guns.”

Obama’s gun control plans include a ban of semi-automatic weapons, more possession restrictions, renewing the assault weapons ban of the Brady Bill and allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers for misuse of their products.

Kammerdeiner and Smith said the run on guns is mostly due to a scare that consumers will not be able to find the guns they want when Obama takes office.

If they are banned completely, they will be illegal. If the production of new weapons is banned, the ones already on the market will be scooped up quickly and the price will rise.

“For a lot of guys, it’s just the threat of taking their big guns away,” Smith said. “The clips and guns that are here already, you can buy them at gun shows — they just won’t make them anymore. So all of a sudden a guy is paying $100 for a clip he bought for $20 last year. It just makes gun people angry.”

Parson said the bottom line is people want their rights protected, including the right to bear arms.

“We think (rising gun sales are) due in part to the fact that gun owners do not trust the president-elect to protect their second amendment rights.”