AZ Sees Spike in Gun Sales

By Steller, Tim | AZ Daily Star, March 25, 2012 | Go to article overview

AZ Sees Spike in Gun Sales


Steller, Tim, AZ Daily Star


It's the 2nd major increase since Obama's election; 2012 vote, better economy, easier laws play a part

Gun and ammunition sales in Arizona are surging as several factors, including the upcoming presidential election, combine to spur buyers on.

It's the second major spike in sales since President Obama was elected in November 2008.

At that time, some types of ammunition ran out in Tucson and customers stocked up on high-powered rifles they suspected Obama would try to ban.

While that panic purchasing subsided by late 2009, gun and ammo sales have continued at a brisk clip since and are rising again.

"This is a surge within a surge," said John Lott, an economist and author of "More Guns, Less Crime."

In fact, the FBI conducted more instant background checks in Arizona in February - 30,320 - than in any month since the system went into effect in 2008. While not a precise reflection of gun sales, the checks are a strong indicator, experts say, because they are conducted each time a person buys a gun from a licensed firearms dealer.

Shopping last week at Second Amendment Sports, 5146 E. Pima St., Jesse Burton said he was living in Alaska in 2009 when some ammunition types ran out. Burton, a shooting hobbyist, said he's not going to get stuck buying outlandishly priced cartridges again.

"I definitely increased on my ammo," he said of his recent purchases. "The prices are just going to increase."

Asked about why their sales seem to be spiking, some retailers point to the upcoming presidential election. The NRA is warning members that Obama is engaged in a "massive conspiracy" to get re- elected, then crack down on gun ownership.

But local retailers and customers also noted that there is always an increase this time of year, when people get their tax refunds. This year it seems to be exaggerated not only by the election but by the economic recovery and the liberalization of gun laws.

Nationwide surge

Whatever the reason, the signs of surging sales are clear nationwide. On Wednesday, gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced it is no longer taking new orders because it received orders for more than 1 million units in January and February.

The company, which has one of its two manufacturing plants in Prescott, can no longer increase production to keep up with demand, it said.

Upon Obama's election, so-called "assault" rifles were in greatest demand, said Bret Jordan, a financial analyst of the firearms industry for Avondale Partners in Boston. As time passed and the administration didn't try to renew the ban on these weapons, demand for them declined, but demand for personal-defense weapons kept growing, Jordan said.

Now, once again, he said, there's "a strong demand in firearms viewed as politically vulnerable."

That's also true of the ammunition used in those weapons. Doug MacKinlay, owner of Diamondback Police Supply, has found it hard to keep up inventory of the .223-caliber ammunition, used in many high- powered semiautomatic rifles.

Demand for self-defense weapons also remains high. Ken Taub was looking at a Sig Sauer P250 pistol Friday at Second Amendment Sports. Taub already has a shotgun, he said, but the birth of a new child, the arrival of his tax return and the new state law eliminating the requirement for a concealed-carry permit inspired him to look for a handgun.

"The law that anyone can carry is cool - and scary," he said.

The "Obama factor"

The idea that Obama, unshackled by the need to pursue re- election, will go for gun control in his second term has spread since Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, first said it in September. And it may be a factor driving the new surge in sales.

The "Obama factor" that caused the 2008-2009 sales spike has revived, said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms- industry group. …

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