Gun sales have skyrocketed since Barack Obama was elected, and many gun owners say they are concerned the nation’s next president and a Democratic-controlled Congress will impose a ban on assault rifles and firearm ownership.
From Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, the FBI reported 374,000 background checks on people purchasing guns – a 49 percent jump from last year. Dealers are reporting larger-than-usual sales since Election Day, according to the Chicago Tribune. The rush to buy weapons is more intense than in the days following Y2K and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Post-election gun rush
Dallas, Texas, gun shop owner DeWayne Irwin said the election, combined with an unstable economy, triggered a firearms dash at his store.
“People are terrified of losing their right to protect themselves,” Irwin told the Tribune. “The volume is 10 times what we ever expected. It started with assault rifles, but at this point people are buying ammunition, high-capacity magazines, Glocks – it’s all flying off the shelf. With the economy the way it is, people are worried about instability. They are scared of civil unrest.”
Likewise, Manassas, Va., gun store owner Bernie Conatser told CNN firearm sales have almost tripled at his shop.
“I have been in business for 12 years, and I was here for Y2K, September 11, Katrina,” Conatser said. “And all of those were big events, and we did notice a spike in business, but nothing on the order of what we are seeing right now.”
Managers at a shooting center in Houston reported selling out of assault weapons the day after Obama was elected. It now has a month-long waiting list for weapons costing more than $1,000 each.
Colorado and Illinois are also reporting record sales. Zion, Ill., gun store owner Jerry Bricco said Obama’s gun policies have his customers worried.
“We’ve had a lot of people concerned because our president-elect is extremely anti-gun and so is his running mate,” Bricco told the Tribune. “They’re afraid of future gun bans and what you will be allowed to get.”
Obama’s position on guns
Obama’s campaign website states, “Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns.”
However, a 1996 Independent Voters of Illinois/Independent Precinct Organization general candidate questionnaire asked Obama during his first run for Illinois Senate, “Do you support state legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?” and “Do you support state legislation to ban assault weapons?” He replied “yes” to both questions, though he now claims his handwriting was not on the questionnaire.
On Sept. 13, 2004, Obama told “Eight Forty-Eight,” a WBEZ Chicago NPR radio show, “I continue to support a ban on concealed carry laws.”
During the 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, Obama said he supported the Washington, D.C., ban on handguns.
“As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms,” he said. “But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can’t constrain the exercise of that right, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.”
Obama’s 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope,” states, “I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby.”
Just last month when he was on the campaign trail in Ohio, Obama reassured voters, “I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.” Some say he was expressing disdain for gun ownership in April when he said rural Americans “cling to guns or religion” during hardship.
Obama’s record prompted the National Rifle Association to warn Sept. 11, 2008, that Obama would be “The most anti-gun president in American history.” NRA lobbyist Chris Cox said Obama has supported the “most radical gun control agenda that’s ever been imagined.”
“He voted to ban almost all hunting ammunition,” Cox said. “He supported a 500 percent tax increase on guns and ammunition. So this guy is bad news when it comes to the Second Amendment and if people are buying guns, it doesn’t really surprise me.”
Likewise, Vice President-elect Joe Biden supported President Bill Clinton’s 1994 assault weapons ban requiring manufacturers to stop producing semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds for public use. The ban expired in 2004, and many people fear Obama’s administration will push to reinstate it.
Local crackdown on gun ownership
Meanwhile, some cities and counties are attempting to preempt state laws by enacting their own forms of gun control.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is seeking to ban legally permitted handguns from city-owned parks and buildings, despite a 47-year-old Washington prohibition against city regulation of firearms. Springfield, Mo., is also attempting to ban guns from city parks, and the National Rifle Association is challenging Philadelphia’s move to impose one-gun-a-month limits and a ban on assault weapons.
One Orange County, Calif., sheriff has sparked fury with her controversial decision to revoke concealed weapons permits approved by former Sheriff Michael Carona unless gun owners can prove they have “good cause” for needing them.
Critics claim Sheriff Sandra Hutchens violated Second Amendment rights when she ordered a lieutenant to review concealed weapons permits to decide whether gun owners had valid reasons for carrying handguns, the Los Angeles Times reported. Her office set out 422 letters to permit holders, warning them that they would need to justify their permits or have them revoked.
Hutchinson said she was surprised at the public response.
There’s so much important stuff going on with the department, I didn’t expect there to be so much feedback on this,” she told the Times.
Hutchens said she does not believe she is violating Second Amendment rights by preventing people from carrying guns in public.
“What if someone who had been issued a [concealed carry permit] by Carona went out and hurt someone?” she said. “It certainly wouldn’t look good for the county.”