At Oklahoma City's H&H Gun Range, which has a large selection of firearms for purchase as well as classes and lanes for shooting, founder and president Miles Hall said his staff experienced a surge during the election of Barack Obama.
The day after the election, Hall said, his store set a record. Then the next day it set another, then the next, and the next through that Saturday. Hall said the run on buying has continued.
"We are just selling a whole lot of everything," Hall said. "Oh yeah. We're still in mid triple-digits here (in sales). That hasn't stopped. We actually have lots to sell. There are dealers around the country who have nothing left to sell. They've run out."
Hall, who last week attended an industry conference in Florida, said the push started in the central region of the country, but soon went nationwide.
"The first push was in the plains states "¦ Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Louisiana "¦ commonly known as the flyover zone. We cling to our God and guns. It started the week before in the heartland, but by the time it got to election (Nov. 4) it was nationwide," Hall said.
SURGE IN GUN SALES
Oklahoma is part of a surge in gun sales nationwide " although this state is likely at the front of the pack, according to sales figures from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which tracks gun sales statistics according to how many background checks are conducted by merchants selling firearms to customers.
Those figures show that November 2008 gun sales, most of which occurred following the election of Obama, jumped 74 percent over the previous November, according to Frank Briganti, spokesman for the NSSF. Briganti said 32,368 checks were conducted in Oklahoma in November 2008, but that 18,591 such checks were conducted in the same month in 2007.
In fact, the checks almost doubled even from the previous month, October 2008, Briganti said. State figures contrast slightly with the national average, in which November 2008 was up 42 percent from the previous year, he said.
"It is higher in Oklahoma than it is nationally. It is amazing. Stay tuned," Briganti said. "The U.S. Economic Center has us in a recession until the third quarter of '09. Yet the firearms industry is bucking that trend."
Gun stores contacted agreed both on or off record that the election of President Obama is the direct factor for the sales increase.
"Yes, the Obama factor, or whatever you want to call it, has had an effect," Briganti said. "Given the economy the way it is, (the election) is clearly a factor. We don't have January (numbers) right now, but January will tell whether this administration will continue to take its toll."
Some cited such fears as "rumors," and others point to stated policy.
Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign, which promotes restrictions or bans on many firearms, said if Oklahomans want to know what to expect from the Obama administration, they need only look to the official White House Web site.
"It's been going on for quite some time. We don't deny it," Hamm said. "We're not concerned about law-abiding citizens buying firearms. We do hope there is some progress on this issue in terms of reasonable measures in the coming years. "¦ Those are the proposals on the White House Web site as part of President Obama's urban policy agenda. Those are the possibilities we are most hopeful about."
According to Obama's posted agenda, the president supports permanently banning "assault weapons," which are military-style, semiautomatic firearms, also called "black rifles," like the AR-15, which is a civilian version of the U.S. military's mainline weapon.
"Obama and (Joe) Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent," the White House Web site states.
Good luck finding a so-called "assault weapon" right now, said one gun store manager who asked not to be named. Or for that matter, he said, finding bullet reloading supplies.
"Our 'black rifles' were the first ones to go," the man said. "Then they heard Obama wanted to tax ammunition 500 percent, so that went on a huge run as well. Same with the handguns. Then everyone went into (thinking), 'I have to reload my own stuff, because the ammo is not going to be there.'"
Hamm said he knows well Oklahoma's collective sentiment about his organization's firearms campaign. He joked about the state's strong reaction to the election.
"You know, they are welcome to spend their additional money on firearms, or they could consider the getting the kids a new pair of shoes or something," Hamm said. "We don't think that calling for keeping dangerous people from getting dangerous guns is going to make the situation worse."
Hall said he likes increased sales as much as anyone, but regrets the circumstances in this case. He worries that panic buying will hurt business.
"In this business we learned a long time ago you gotta think long-term," Hall said. "There are people who want to fan the flames and make a lot of sales "¦ but I'm not one of those. You want what's best for business in the long run." "Ben Fenwick