Americans stick to their guns


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Amid fears that President Obama is planning a clampdown on guns, Chris McGreal reports from Culpeper, Virginia, on a new US arms race.

At the Guns and Ammo Warehouse they are reluctant to admit Barack Obama is right about very much. But customers enjoy the thought that his controversial campaign comment, that "bitter" small-town Americans are clinging to their guns, has proved more true than the president could have imagined.
Firearms sales have surged in the six months since Obama's election as millions of Americans have gone on a buying spree that has stripped gun shops in some parts of the country almost bare of assault weapons and led to a national ammunition shortage.
The FBI says that since November more than seven million people applied for criminal background checks in order to buy weapons, a figure excluding the many more buying at thousands of gun shows in states such as Virginia, without facing any checks.
Gun-shop owners and the National Rifle Association say the surge is driven by worries that Obama is planning to ban many types of firearms and that the deepening economic crisis will fuel a crime wave, as witnessed by the string of mass shootings in the past few weeks.
But control groups pressing for greater control on firearms accuse the NRA of funding a massive scare campaign to portray Obama as a gun owner's worst nightmare and to argue that tighter restrictions on weapons ownership are a threat to broader liberties and a step toward tyranny.
That extreme position apparently prompted a man, who told friends he was afraid the government would take his guns away, to shoot three police officers in Pittsburgh last week. But more commonly such views are boosting gun sales, from Ohio to Texas and from Wyoming to Virginia.
Chris Howley, manager of the Guns and Ammo Warehouse, in Manassas, Virginia, says sales are up by at least 50% since Obama won the election - particularly of assault rifles after the president indicated he would revive a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons that had been allowed to lapse under George Bush. "It went through the roof since the election. Initially they were after the semi-automatics because they thought they would be banned again. They just flew out at a phenomenal rate. But now they're buying up all the hand guns too. Look at the hand guns case. It's only half full," he said.
A year ago, the Guns and Ammo Warehouse was selling, each month for $1,000 each, about 10 of their AR-15s, a semi-automatic civilian version of the army's M-16 assault rifle. Howley says he can now sell 45 a week, when he has them. There is less demand for the Tommy gun on the wall because, Howley notes drily, it meets California specifications and is restricted to hold just 10 bullets in its distinctive round cylinder, instead of the 100 permitted in Virginia where guns can be carried openly on the streets.
Neither are hunting rifles in much demand (including the one in shocking pink for small girls). But almost everything else is being snapped up.
Brett Ross, owner of Grayghost Tactical, in Culpeper, Virginia, a shop named after a Confederate army unit in the civil war, says his business is booming despite the economic climate. He is unable to replace his more popular lines. "All the hand guns are selling and I can't get more in. I'm wearing a $3,000 hand gun. That's expensive and even they are sold out," he says. "When the guns come in I sell in a day or two what used to sit on the wall for weeks."
There is a consensus on all sides that the run on weapons began with a belief that Obama would tighten the US gun laws. During the election campaign Obama said he supported the constitution's second amendment on the right to bear arms and welcomed a supreme court decision last year that struck down a ban on hand guns in Washington DC. "I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won't take your handgun away," he said.
But David Adams, president of the Virginia Shooting Sports Association, an NRA affiliate, says gun owners believe Obama really wants much greater controls on weapons. "When he ran for Congress in 2000 he proposed an increase in the excise tax of 500% on the sale of firearms and ammunition. He has said in the past he is against concealed carrying of hand guns for self defence."
Howley agrees. "Barack Obama's history of voting in Illinois was 100% against gun ownership. If it was up to him he would make all guns disappear."
Among other things, the NRA is funding a website - - that describes Obama as the "most anti-gun president in history" and accuses him of plotting to close every gun shop in the country.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, founded in the name of James Brady, Ronald Reagan's press secretary, who was shot in an assassination attempt against the president, accuses the NRA of whipping up a hysteria that has driven up gun sales.
Chad Ramsey, the Brady Campaign's senior associate director, says that the NRA has spent $6.67m campaigning against Obama, a sum more than 30 times what it put in to the election campaign against Al Gore in the 2000 election. He adds: "The gun lobby, particularly the NRA, throughout the election has fomented this paranoia that the Obama administration and the Democrats were going to come and take your guns. I think folks responded to that. We're seeing people who are stockpiling weapons because they believed it. It's very problematic and scary. The gun lobby and the NRA have a real interest in spreading this fear. They get a lot of their funding from gun manufacturers and gun dealers. They're feeding their own coffers by doing this."
The campaign also feeds more extreme views voiced by popular, right-wing, radio stations and TV commentators, saying Obama is plotting a "socialist state" that will strip citizens of many of their other rights.
But that was not why David Medhurst, a middle-aged customer in a grey suit, is looking for guns at the Virginia Arms Co. He says he owns a mix of hand guns for self defence, and assault weapons. "I enjoy shooting. It's a sport. It's a lot of fun when you pull that trigger. It's not illegal and it's not criminal. I grew up with it. I think this president will try to ban semi-automatics. He will find it difficult but it's happened before, so why take a chance? When I own it he won't be able to touch it. But I don't think this president wants to destroy my liberties."
Howley says the political fears have been compounded by the economic crisis. "A lot of our sales are to people who didn't own guns before. Now they're buying because of fear of rising crime. Many of these people wouldn't know an AR from an AK. They just weren't gun people. There are some people you do get a little concerned at the fact they don't seem to understand what you are trying to tell them. We usually tell them to go take a class."
With the surge in gun sales has come a sharp increase in demand for ammunition, on top of the military's call for bullets for Iraq and Afghanistan, that has created a nationwide shortage of the most popular bullets used in semi-automatic pistols and military-style rifles.
Even big department stores, such as Wal-Mart, are complaining that daily shipments of ammunition have all but dried up and that when stock does come in it sells out the same day.
"The largest gun show in Virginia was two weeks after the election," says Howley. "It sold out of ammo on the first day. People were just wheeling it out by the cart load. It's partly fuelled by all these rumours on the internet that there's going to be a $5m tax on a box of ammo. People go nuts saying, 'look what they're going to do'. Before they would buy two or three boxes of ammo, now they buy a whole case and it just compounds the problem."
Gun-shop owners are reluctant to question the thinking driving their profits, but Ross, at Grayghost Tactical, doubts Obama poses a serious threat to gun ownership. "A lot of this is rumours on the internet. I don't think there's the political will in Congress for a ban on semi-automatics, and certainly not for more than that. But people believe what they want to believe."

Americans stick to their guns as firearms sales surge | World news | The Guardian

I think this was written with the blessings of the Anti Gun establishment. The Guardian is trying to paint the NRA as the Bad Boys here...

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