Gun sales booming locally, nationally
December 30, 2012
It took just a day for James Campbell to sell every AR-15 rifle in his Carson City gunstore, about 15 of them, plus all the 300 30-round magazines for those rifles. By mid-week, all of the store’s .223 caliber ammunition was sold out, along with its military counterpart, the 5.56 mm.“The whole last 10 days have been crazy,” Campbell said after handling a slew of customers by late Friday.Campbell, owner of the America West Guns outlet he opened two years ago on South Carson Street, said business boomed after Connecticut gun slayings at a school prompted presidential remarks about gun laws. After President Barack Obama made his comments on Dec. 18 regarding a possible assault weapons ban, the rush was on. “Sales have gone crazy,” Campbell said, using the word again and again. ”Absolutely crazy. I’ve done, easily, more business in the last 10 days than in the last two to three months.”The AR-15 is often referred to as the “Barbie for men” because of its modular nature, he said, and because it can be used for various purposes. “You can accessorize the hell out of it,” Campbell said.The past two weeks haven’t just been about the AR-15 or rifles. Sales are up across the board, from assault weapons to bolt-action rifles and handguns, along with high-capacity magazines for rifles and handguns.Campbell said he sees a slight gender gap, with about 60 percent of male customers to 40 percent females, though the gap closes or begins to switch when it comes to his concealed carry weapons instruction classes — which are booked for the next three or four sessions.Getting an AR-15 will be difficult in this new market. “Almost every shop I know of says they’re out of AR-15s,” said Campbell.After the Newtown, Conn., massacre sparked a national debate about gun control and the availability of assault weapons, gun sellers statewide have enjoyed booming sales. State officials said 2,383 requests for background checks were handled the weekend of Dec. 14-16 after the Connecticut shootings.Two gun shows, however, were in Las Vegas during that weekend and the holiday season always increases sales, Pat Conmay, chief of records and technology for the Department of Public Safety told the Associated Press days later.However, assault rifles are sold out across the country. Rounds of .223 bullets, like those used in the AR-15 type Bushmaster rifle used in Newtown, are scarce. Stores are struggling to restock their shelves. Gun and ammunition makers are telling retailers they will have to wait months to get more. Store owners who have been in the business for years say they have never seen demand like this before. When asked how much sales have increased in the past few weeks, Ryan Horsley, owner of Red’s Trading Post in New York, just laughed.“We haven’t even had a chance to look at it,” he says. Horsley spends his days calling manufacturers around the country trying to buy more items for the store. Mainly, they tell him he has to wait. Franklin Armory, a firearm maker in Morgan Hill, Calif., is telling dealers that it will take six months to fulfill their orders. The company plans to hire more workers and buy more machines to catch up, says Franklin Armory’s President Jay Jacobson. The shortage is leaving many would-be gun owners empty handed.No organization publically releases gun sales data. The only way to measure demand is by the number of background checks that are conducted when someone wants to buy a firearm. Those numbers are released by the Federal Reserve Bureau every month. Data for December is not out yet. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation says that it did 16.8 million firearm background checks as of the end of November, up more than 2 percent from a year ago. BUYING IN NEVADA, TAKING HOME TO CALIFORNIANevada’s rules on assault weapon sales are lax, according to some who blame the Silver State for the flow of such firearms into California, where the guns have been banned in some form since 1989. With a reorganized National Rifle Association contingent, growing gun club memberships, and many pro-firearms laws passed in the past five years, gun enthusiasts told the San Francisco Chronicle they aren’t concerned their local lawmakers will join California’s march toward an anti-gun culture. Yet they do worry about federal authorities.Not all gun proponents predict an armed revolt, but all agreed the call for more gun laws would do little to prevent mass shootings such as happened in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children were among the killer’s 27 victims.Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, the NRA’s state affiliate, said Nevada’s laws were changed the five years because residents concluded the government no longer could protect them. He pointed to the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, where neighbors were left to fend for themselves during outbreaks of looting and violence. “You can’t count on police to save you,” he told the Chronicle. “Their departments are cut, staffing is down everywhere. Their response times are never going to get to the shooter before a citizen could.”At Bizarre Guitar, a Reno gun outlet, Greg Brown, 52, and his son Gregor Brown, 24, took a long look at two AR-15s, the first such rifles they could find after visits to four other stores.The elder Brown, an architect, told the Chronicle his family had moved to Northern Nevada the East Bay town of Alamo in 2010 after becoming fed up with California’s regulations.As a Nevada resident, Brown was able to walk out the door with a $1,500 weapon that in California would have required a 10-day waiting period, assuming it was a legal weapon in the first place.In this case, a sales merchant called an FBI phone number for an “instant background check” and cleared Brown in less than three minutes. In addition, if Brown wanted to sell the assault weapon to another resident outside the shop or at a gun show, no state law prohibits the transaction. Such paperless “private sales” are banned in California, though the ban is difficult to enforce.Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, told the Chronicle such ease of transactions attract California residents into Nevada to purchase military-style weapons.They also are an incentive for Nevada sellers to avoid asking many questions when dealing with out-of-state customers who pay cash, he said.“I have no reason to believe the situation has changed at all,” he said. “The standard is to ask no questions. The deal is done with cash and a handshake, and then they move on.”Ben Van Houten, an attorney with San Francisco’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Chronicle federal reforms are necessary to stem illegal trafficking of guns over state lines. The center gives California’s gun laws a grade of A, Nevada’s an F.“Bad gun laws have a significant impact far beyond their borders,” Van Houten said. “It’s really incumbent with the state with weak laws to shore up their laws because they’re exporting their gun violence problem.”Because no background checks or paperwork exist with private sales, it is impossible to estimate how many assault weapons flow into California, according to authorities. • The Nevada Appeal’s Wheeler Cowperthwaite, Justin Berton of the San Francisco Chronicle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.