Outdoors Notebook: Gun, ammunition sales spike as president promises new gun laws

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President Barack Obama's November re-election sparked record sales of firearms and ammunition, as did his first election in 2008, as gun owners stocked up in anticipation -- at the time some called it unwarranted fear -- of the prospect of new gun control legislation.

But the Dec. 14 mass murder at a Connecticut elementary school has upped the ante. News media commentary, statements by legislators, the reactions of some gun manufactures and retailers, and the president's Dec. 18 promise to pass new gun laws in his second term have pushed gun and ammo sales to new heights.

Mr. Obama said he would, "lead an effort to include members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January, proposals that I then intend to push without delay."

Specifically, the president asked Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, pass legislation that would end firearm sales by private sellers without a background check and limit high-capacity magazines.

Last week gun sales were brisk throughout the Pittsburgh region and nationwide, straining the FBI's automated background check system for firearm purchases. One Pittsburgh retailer said days before the Christmas holiday shoppers were waiting as long as three days for FBI clearance to purchase a gun.

The small-arms industry generates about $12 billion in annual revenue, a quarter of that in ammunition manufacturing, according to IBISWorld Inc., a market research organization specializing in long-range industry forecasts.

Gun manufactures and retailers reacted dramatically to the shooting. The private equity firm Cerebrus Capital Management announced it would sell off all of its gun and ammunition assets, including America's oldest and largest manufacturer of firearms and ammunition, which sells more than 2 million rounds of ammunition annually and makes the semi-automatic assault weapon allegedly used in the school shooting.

Findlay-based Dick's Sporting Goods announced it would pull "modern sporting rifles" from its shelves, leading to inaccurate reports that the chain had suspended sales of high-powered rifles at its 500 stores nationwide. In fact, Dick's removed from display only rifles and air guns designed in assault-weapon style. High-powered rifles and air guns that do not look like assault weapons, as well as all rim-fire rifles, shotguns, black powder sporting arms and ammunition, continue to be sold at Dick's.

Friday, America's largest gun-rights lobby, the 4.3 million-member National Rifle Association, called on Congress to fund the placement of armed police in every school.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre also announced that former Rep. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., will head an NRA-sponsored training program, "National School Shield," to help -- at no cost -- schools to develop enhanced security plans.

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