If you’re in the gun business, you’re smiling right about now.
Locally and nationally, gun sales have skyrocketed. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a nonprofit trade association for the shooting, hunting and firearm industry, reports a 42 percent increase nationally in the month of November alone and a 12.5 percent overall rise in sales compares to last year.
At least two retail stores sell guns in Tracy — Big 5 Sporting Goods and Tracy Shooting Supplies. A spokesman at Big 5 declined to talk about sales, while a man at Tracy Shooting Supplies confirmed that gun sales were up, but declined to elaborate.
Wal-Mart stopped selling guns in California in 2005 but still stocks ammunition.
With the opening of Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Manteca, locals interested in buying a firearm aren’t limited to Tracy to get their trigger finger on. They now have more options than ever to acquire a firearm right down the road.
And acquire they have — at a quickened pace.
Bob Barker, a sales associate at Manteca’s Bass Pro Shops, the recently-opened outdoors retail store that stocks more than 2,000 handguns, shotguns, rifles and muzzleloaders, said that in all his 25 years of gun sales, he’s never seen a rise in sales as he’s seen in the past couple of months.
"They’re (guns) flying off the shelves," Barker said. "A lot of people are specifically asking for something in the line of defense, and the other half wants to buy something before they can’t."
The "other half" Barker refers to are buyers worried that President-elect Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress might move to restrict certain types of firearms despite the insistence of Obama’s campaign aides that the president-elect supports Second Amendment rights.
Millie Johnson of Manteca was looking to buy a rifle for her husband for Christmas at Bass Pro Shops.
"I don’t think it’s crime that’s behind the rise of gun sales as much as it is uncertainty," she said.
"If Obama doesn’t sway from the foundation that our Founding Fathers established, then gun owners will be OK."
Others point toward a down economy that could prompt a surge of crime and violence.
"As times get tougher, crime goes up," said Mark Lindy of Tracy as he gazed at handguns in a display case at Bass Pro Shops. "We’re seeing more and more people getting robbed every day here. Here’s an area that already sees more crime than the average, because there’s so many lower-income types living in the valley. I just want to protect my family and my property."
Steve Greenberg, cashier and range safety officer at the Manteca Sportsman’s Club, said he’s seen a rise in people coming out to the range and a spike of enrollment in firearm safety courses.
"It’s usually slow around this time of year with the weather and the holidays, but that’s not the case now," Greenberg said as he dumped several empty plastic Bass Pro Shop bags that he recently found on the range onto a counter. "People are motivated to buy what they can before it might be too late."
The Clinton administration imposed a ban on several types of military-style semi-automatic rifles and magazine clips that hold more than 20 rounds in 1994, but that ban was allowed to lapse in 2004 when President Bush did not resign it.
There were about 31,000 gun-related death in the U.S. in 2005, the most recent years available, and half of those were suicides, statistics show.
Obama has proposed restoring the assault rifle ban, requiring background checks for buyers at gun shows and other "commonsense measures" such as "childproofing," which would require firearms dealers to provide a lock with each handgun sold.
"I saw this one coming," said George McHenry of Tracy, a National Rifle Association member, concerning the recent surge in gun sales. "It’s clear from Obama’s voting record and the promises that he continues to make that increased gun control will be imposed. People are taking notice of this and are reacting accordingly."
If guns are a hot commodity, then of course one would think ammunition is also selling at higher rates than normal. According to one Wal-Mart employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she’s not allowed to speak for the company, sales are up at the Tracy store.
"It was down prior to the election," she said. "But since then, people have been buying more than usual — especially in bulk."
Barker of Bass Pro Shops said it’s specifically certain types of handgun ammunition that is moving quickly off of his shelves.
"People have told me that they’re afraid that Obama is going to take away handguns, so they’re buying ’em up, along with the ammo for them." he said. "Since that election, business has skyrocketed."
At a glance
• The National Rifle Association posted this statement on its Web site two days before the
Nov. 4 presidential election: President-elect Obama has voted to ban hunting ammunition,
proposed a 500 percent increase in the excise tax on firearms, and voted to ban single- and double-barrel shotguns. Obama has voted to allow lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and against Supreme Court justices who supported the individual right to bear arms. (Source: www.nra.org)
• Gun sales have increased 42 percent in the month of November compared to last year.
(Source: National Shooting Sports Foundation)
• Gun sales are up by 12.5 percent overall compared to last year. (Source: NSSF)
• In Colorado, would-be gun buyers set a one-day record the Saturday before the Nov. 4 election with the highest number of background check requests in a 24-hour period. (Source: Colorado Bureau of Investigation)