While recession rages around us and now encroaches upon our borders, according to the latest tax revenue numbers from Oklahoma State Treasurer Scott Meacham, one corner of the state's economy is booming.
Sales tax revenue was up $14.6 million from last year, according to the April report. Second Amendment merchandise and accessories may be part of the reason for the increase. Guns and ammunition are flying off the shelves of gun shops, sporting goods stores, private dealers and from vendor tabletops at now-more-frequent guns shows around the state.
A year ago, it seemed one could leisurely stroll around a State Fair Park gun show after fronting a $5 admission and browse the tables of retail and private gun dealers. Prices were about what one would pay at a store, and ammunition was plentiful and affordable.
Not anymore. Since November, fears of sweeping changes in gun-ownership limits to the Second Amendment " in particular a renewed ban on so-called assault-type rifles " have created a "Tickle Me Elmo" sort of adult buying frenzy at firearm retailers and gun shows in Oklahoma and many other areas of the country. And it's not only rifles that are popular, but also small caliber, ultra-compact pistols and revolvers for the burgeoning concealed-carry crowd. Once-quarterly gun shows are now held more frequently in Oklahoma City, with a pricier admission and a wait to enter.
Billed as the world's largest, Wanenmacher's Tulsa Arms Show, with 4,100 vendors in an 11-acre building, is staged twice yearly in Tulsa at its fairgrounds. Show promoter Joe Wanenmacher cites a 40 percent increase in show attendance to more than 30,000 at last month's show compared with a year ago, many of whom he said were first-time attendees and gun buyers.
Wanenmacher hopes gun safety training and range practice also become part of the first-time gun owner's experience and said he recommends a concealed carry permit class as a first step to becoming both comfortable and knowledgeable about firearms.
From Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation statistics, many state residents are heeding such advice. Concealed carry permit applications, which may be submitted only after successfully completing a training and safety course, reached a record of more than 21,000 in 2008, the most since the program began in 1996, and are being received at twice that pace so far this year.
Second Amendment economics in Oklahoma have kindled an entrepreneurial spirit never far from a merchandise supply-demand imbalance, as astute individuals buy up vast quantities of ammunition from local retailers prior to guns shows and re-sell it to willing buyers at sometimes twice after-tax retail prices.
In turn, after complaints, some local Wal-Marts are now limiting ammo purchases to six boxes per person per day. Other gun shops are more restrictive or have increased the retail markup to the point customers self-limit their purchases.
Our state's renewed interest in firearms is being noticed and recently received some national attention. A "Late Show with David Letterman" segment early this month featured an ad placed by a southeastern Oklahoma horticulture vendor appearing in Oklahoma Living magazine offering "Paper shell pecan trees " now taking orders. Will trade for guns."
As long as the supply-demand imbalance continues, Second Amendment economics will remain one bright spot in Oklahoma amid an otherwise dismal national economy.
Hazelton is director of economic research for the Oklahoma Bankers Association and resides in northwest Oklahoma City.