An increase in business
Restrictions on gun sales ordered by President Barack Obama have created a stampede in the sale of guns and supplies that has extended to the local area.
Allen Sparks, owner of A&J Sporting Goods in Cassville, compared the current spike in gun sales to what he saw four years ago when President Obama was elected.
"Most people are afraid of what Obama was going to come out with," Sparks said. "It wasn't as bad as they thought. A lot of them have overbought."
Sparks said most of his customers buy for home defense purposes. In Arkansas, he said, the public market leans more heavily toward paramilitary guns.
"We sell semi-automatic guns," he said. "They don't become assault rifles until you use them."
Sparks' business is mainly in handguns, though he stocks military rifles and other equipment. His biggest demand has been for high capacity magazines, which he stocks and expects will be the first items to go off the market.
Products are presently selling as fast as they come in, Sparks said, about double the normal rate. December and January are usually the best months of the year for sales anyway, he said.
"It's not any more intense than it was four years ago," Sparks said. "They were just more ready for it."
The biggest consequence of the latest rush will show itself in orders. Sparks said he won't be able to order what he wants and will have to take what he can get.
Sparks expected the sales rush would continue for three or four months, based on past experience. The handgun shortage may last longer because gun manufacturers Ruger and Smith and Wesson have fallen behind on production.
"The company I'm buying from is 2,200 orders behind. That's seven days," Sparks said. "If we're seeing the peak now, then it will be flatline for four or five months. Come summer, we'll be asking where all the customers went."
"It certainly created an up-shoot in sales," said Dave Turner, owner of Monett Gun and Pawn. "The problem is there's no way to restock what we've sold."
Turner said gun sales increased sharply during the week before Christmas, right after the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook school shooting. The end of the year is usually busy with gift sales, but the reaction surpassed what Turner had seen before.
"It really took away the Christmas spirit," Turner said.
"On a typical day, we'd have weeks when we'd only sell one gun," Turner said. "Two a week would be a good week. Now we're selling four or five a day easy. We've sold six today (Thursday, Jan. 17)."
Turner prefers selling hunting rifles and traditional Western pistols, relatively inexpensive guns with low demand and a minimal profit margin. The high demand for guns has been more of an annoyance.
"The guns they're after we rarely ever have," Turner said. "Assault rifles were $1,000 guns. Now they're $2,500. We've never had that. Occasionally people would borrow on them, and sometimes they would default and we'd have to sell them, Otherwise we wouldn't sell them."
From time to time, Turner gets an SKS Soviet assault rifle or a Chinese gun, which have been fairly common on the market. He said customers are grabbing those off the shelf.
Many customers buy guns from auction sites on the Internet, or parts, such as the action of an assault rifle, to piece their own gun together. Such purchases can only ship to a licensed dealer, not the buyer.
Turner receives many of these guns and earns a small fee for processing the paperwork and running the background checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) registry. Calls typically take 15 to 20 minutes, and sometimes run as long as 45 minutes.
"That tells me the national hotline is busy getting calls from everywhere," Turner said. "I've got six or seven waiting for a yes, no, or a three-day wait."
One of the bigger surprises in the latest run on guns has been the demand for ammunition. Turner reports that people stick their heads in the door, ask if there is any ammunition available and leave without coming into the store if there is none available.
"Ammunition for everything is tough to get. Even .22 shells, the most basic and inexpensive kind, are nowhere to be found," Turner said. "Most suppliers are three to four months behind. Outfits like Bass Pro will get their orders. We're down on the priority line.
"I got two cases of ammunition yesterday. They charged me $4 a box more, a 25 to 30 percent increase. You take what you can get," Turner said.
After reading the Obama presidential orders, which Turner described as "good sense proposals," he has been surprised the volume of sales has continued.
"I think people are afraid something is still coming," Turner continued. "People think it's now or never.
"When we had the ice storm in 2007, I had 40 or 50 chain saws on the shelf. They all sold because there was more of a need, rather than the panic we're seeing this time. I tell my people we need another ice storm to get priorities straightened out.
"It's going to have to slow down, or we're not going to have anything left," Turner added.
At Aurora Gun and Pawn, a spokesman said he had a line of customers waiting to be served.
"We're so covered up," the spokesman said. "In a nutshell, business has increased."