Obama re-election a boon for gun dealers


David Hargreaves of Gainesville, FL, checks out a reproduction of a German made STG-44 tactical style rifle at Harry Beckwith Gun Dealer and Indoor Pistol Range Wednesday afternoon, November 21, 2012, at the store located in Micanopy, FL. "November 2012 sales are up 20-25% from last year. The biggest sales are hand guns," Jack Pickett, one of the owners of the store said. Ammo has also skyrocketed through the roof. A 1000 round box of 5.56 round of ammo would have cost you just over $300 last year this time is now in the $550 range.

Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 9:57 p.m.

Robert Gunn’s prediction about firearm sales if President Barack Obama got a second term was as blunt as the collection of his snub-nose 38s beneath the glass counter for sale: If the president’s popularity held, so would record high gun sales, the Ocala Armory gun shop salesman said.

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David Hargreaves of Gainesville, FL, checks out a reproduction of a German made STG-44 tactical style rifle at Harry Beckwith Gun Dealer and Indoor Pistol Range Wednesday afternoon, November 21, 2012, at the store located in Micanopy, FL. "November 2012 sales are up 20-25% from last year. The biggest sales are hand guns," Jack Pickett, one of the owners of the store said. Ammo has also skyrocketed through the roof. A 1000 round box of 5.56 round of ammo would have cost you just over $300 last year this time is now in the $550 range.

Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner

Gunn was right.

On Election Day this year, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted 2,227 background checks, up from 1,553 on the same Tuesday in 2011.

On Nov. 7, the day after Obama was re-elected, 3,017 people in Florida submitted requests to purchase firearms. That’s up from 1,640 during the same day a year ago.

The number of background checks — needed in Florida before you can purchase a firearm — has remained around 2,700 ever since Obama’s re-election, the FDLE reported.

If nothing else, Obama’s election both this year and in 2008 translated into a boom to gun and ammunition sales, Gunn said with a shrug.

“It’s been a boost to the (firearm) economy … but when it came to the election, you could have predicted this,” Gunn said.

At the store on U.S. 27, the phone calls from people inquiring about the availability of firearms was steady. Gunn and another salesman were answering three phones between them as well as helping people in the store.

But the spike in gun sales following this year’s election looks to be part of a growing wave of Floridians buying guns.

In 2007, the FDLE conducted 406,370 background checks necessary before someone is allowed to purchase a gun. That jumped to more than 482,000 during the 2008 election year and more than 532,000 in 2009.

That dipped to about 531,000 in 2010 and again ramped to more than 606,000 in 2011. That number is expected to be exceeded in 2012.

Ammunition sales are following the same trajectory.

“They’re buying it by the case (of a thousand bullets). A year ago you’d only see that once in a while,” Gunn said. “And it’s the same thing: the political climate.”

Guns aren’t flying off the shelves only in Florida. Nationally, there were 1.6 million background checks conducted in October, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. That was up from 1.3 million background checks in October 2011.

But amid local gun sales, Gunn said there has arisen a shortage of some firearms, namely high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles, also referred to as tactical rifles.

“It’s unavailable … and it’s because of the political climate,” he said, adding there’s a fear among gun owners that such rifles and other firearms could be banned by Obama and his political supporters.

But despite all the talk of bans, Obama hasn’t banned anything, Gunn said.

“And there’s no legislative evidence he’ll do anything with guns,” Gunn said.

Actually, former President Bill Clinton did more to hurt high-capacity rifles than Obama, Gunn points out, citing the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, sometimes called assault weapons. The 10-year ban sunset in 2004 and was never re-invoked.

Jack Pickett, co-owner of Harry Beckwith Gun Dealer and Indoor Pistol Range in Micanopy, said that although there’s no ban now, Obama did show a desire to limit firearms when he was first elected.

Pickett said he saw a 40 percent sales spike after the first Obama election, followed by a dip in 2010 and a surge again in 2011. “In 2009, everything was selling. The only thing that wasn’t selling were hunting rifles,” Pickett said. “If it had anything to do with self-defense, it was selling.”

Pickett expects to see a jump in sales following Obama’s re-election in the same way he saw it in 2008. He’s predicting a 20-25 percent sales increase during November 2012 compared with November 2011.

And just like Ocala Armory, Pickett said his biggest shortage is with high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles.

If a gun shop owner has $2,000 to buy inventory now, he or she will put it toward stocking tactical weapons, he said.

But Pickett said he won’t be seeing increased profits. Seeing the demand rise, tactical rifle manufacturers are bound to raise prices, and that will have to be passed on to consumers, Pickett said.

Perusing Pickett’s firearm supply, Terry McElroy admitted he had an ample gun supply in his Gainesville home, but, like any collector, could always justify another.

“You hear all kinds of rumors like the government is going to impose an ammunition tax of 300 percent,” said the 57-year-old McElroy. “I hate to agree, but I believe this administration does not want us to own guns or to be in this store.”

McElroy said he also owns high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons and admits they’re not suitable for hunting, but rather only for self-protection, range shooting and “peace of mind.”

Shooting at the Beckwith indoor gun range, Jim Pinder said he isn’t overly worried about Obama’s re-election when it comes to his right to own firearms.

But he does think that if unchecked, the federal government would impose more gun regulations.

Pinder, 62, said he only owns a couple hundred rounds of ammunition at a time and buys more only when he needs it.

As for owning a high-capacity, semi-automatic rifle, the Reddick resident said he has no overwhelming desire to own one.

“It’s like guys wanting to own a machine gun, it’s a toy,” he said.

But if Lord Arms, a Montana-based company that makes high-capacity, semi-automatic rifles, is any indication, many gun owners disagree with Pinder.

Cully Lord, the company’s regional manager, was at Beckwith last week to arrange for the gun store to be the sole retailer in Marion and Alachua counties for his tactical firearms.

Before the 2012 election, Lord said he had six tactical weapons ready to sell to distributors. Their retail prices are typically $1,050-$1,200. The company is 1 year old. Breaking into the market is difficult, Lord admitted.

“But ever since the election, business has picked up. We sold out of our inventory,” Lord said.

“People are afraid they’re going to ban this type of rifle … There’s a big demand right now,” Lord said. “People are worried ... and for now the demand’s going to continue.”

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