New rules spurring gun sales
After President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions on gun control earlier this month, firearm sales hit new heights in Columbia County.
Obama’s executive actions focus on tightening background checks by hiring more examiners and making sure they are processed more quickly, enforcing firearm laws more strictly through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, increasing access to mental health treatment and conducting research into gun safety technology.
JW Weaponry and Outdoor owner John Woodley said his business has seen a rise in sales of firearms, magazines and accessories in recent weeks. But that doesn’t mean he likes it.
“I never want to make a dollar based on having my constitutional rights trampled on,” he said.
Woodley said guns are “a hobby and a passion” for people who frequent firearm stores, and that people are afraid they won’t have as much access to them.
He said the fear has its roots in history.
“For those of us old enough to remember, we’ve seen a number of anti-gun bills in our lifetime,” he said. “We’ve had the Firearm Owner Protection Act in 1986, which made it unlawful to own fully automatic weapons. We saw the 1994 federal assault weapon ban, back in the ‘90s, though that was removed in 2004. A lot of people get out of the military and they want to keep their rifles. I can’t tell you how many guys from Vietnam wish they had theirs.”
He characterized the firearms market as volatile, saying the business had ebbs and flows due to government action on guns as well as fear of future government action on guns.
“People are stocking up, trying to get ammo, trying to get high-capacity magazines, trying to get weapons they feel are going to be outlawed,” he said. “That’s creating an unstable market. If nothing gets passed, now you have all these people who took a gamble and they have all this backstock. To unload it, they start selling it at lower prices, and that creates instability in the market. It makes things chaotic for a little while. I don’t see it as a good thing. There’s some short-term gain, but long-term negative effects.”
“At the end of the day, I’d rather have my rights,” he said.
Scott Crews, an employee at Pickett Weaponry, said there had been a lot more handguns sold, in particular, since Obama’s recent executive orders. In particular, he said many women were buying them, though he said this may be less because of Obama’s actions and more because the buyers just want protection against break-ins and violence.
He acknowledged that there was definitely a component of the sales that sprouted from a fear of further government action.
“We call it the Obama scare,” he said.
McDuffie Marine Sporting Goods president Dal McDuffie said he had noticed a small increase in gun sales since Obama’s actions, but not as much as several years ago when there was talk of legislation to ban high-capacity magazines, he said.
But that never came to pass, and things went back to normal. The current executive orders, he said, have not hurt McDuffie Marine Sporting Goods.
“It hasn’t really affected our business,” McDuffie said. “All the things he was talking about, we already had to do, as far as background checks. He was talking about online sales and gun shows, and we don’t do any of that. In my personal opinion, I don’t think what he was talking about will have much effect.”
McDuffie said that any time there’s even talk about gun legislation, “people get nervous” and buy firearms and related merchandise they fear will be restricted.
Self-professed local gun enthusiast and competitive shooter Bob Hathcox said he believes in the right to own guns and hopes people will see that there are right and wrong ways to use them. But he also doesn’t feel much danger of the government taking guns away.
“It would be very hard for the government to do away with guns,” he said. “That’s in the Second Amendment. A lot of people are worried — I’m not. I am a competitive shooter. I don’t need to buy a bunch. I’ve already got a bunch.”
Firearm class instructor and Columbia County resident Russ Adler with Adler & Associates International said he saw the number of people signing up for firearm classes in the area triple in recent months. While they usually have one course every month, they’ve now had seven courses in the last three months.
The reasons, though, are broader than just Obama.
“The course frequency tripled from normal since the talks on gun control and the San Bernadino terrorist attacks,” Adler said. “People are feeling that their rights are being encroached and diminished. They’re feeling the need to take protection into their own hands.”