By Joseph Robertia
Some are calling it a gun-buying panic, referring to the spike in sales of firearms — especially semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines for them — which began in the days following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec 14. Travis Wright, owner of the Impact Area gun shop on Kalifornsky Beach Road, said that he can’t remember a time when people bought guns in such a frenzy.
“As of the Monday after the shooting we had 70 AR-15s in stock with as many as 12 rifles in stock for some of the more popular models,” he said. By that weekend he had sold out of all of them.
A Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, modeled on the AR-15 platform, was among the four firearms that Adam Lanza, 20, brought with him when he fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members, wounding two others, at the elementary school. He also fatally shot his mother before heading to the school. The incident has lead some to predict that the federal government would be making changes to the existing gun laws for AR-15s and other similar tactical rifles types, such as AK-47s and Uzis. Days after the shooting, President Obama stated on Dec. 19 that he would make gun control a “central issue” at the start of his second term of office. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Joseph, I-Conn., called for a reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004, with Feinstein voicing her intent to introduce a ban bill on the first day of the new Congress.
“This is worse than anything I’ve seen since Obama took office. There was a light bump in sales when he took office for his first term, and then again when he was re-elected, but after Sandy Hook it just took off. It started with ARs, then quickly went to AKs, Mini-14s and other semi-auto ‘black rifles,’ and then magazines for them. But then it was just everything: bolt-action rifles, handguns, parts, ammo, everything — it didn’t matter what it was,” Wright said.
The story was the same at other gun stores around the central peninsula, and larger sporting goods and retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Three Bears and Sportsman’s Warehouse that stock AR-15s.
“We went through everything we had,” said Mike Misner, an employee at Black Dog Firearms in Soldotna. “It’s been crazy. We’ve had people come in and ask about ARs and other semi-autos, and when they find out we’re out right now, they just say, ‘Well, give me one of whatever you have left.’”
Online firearms distributors have been equally swamped with orders for semi-autos. Some of the largest online distributors suspended their websites, or the sales portion of those sites, when it was clear that they were taking orders faster than they could ship products out, and in greater demand than their inventory supply. Sales on auction sites, like gunbroker.com, also exploded with semi-auto item prices doubling, and in some cases tripling, within days of the Sandy Hook shooting.
Wright said that he’s also fielded dozens of calls from people in the Lower 48 attempting to buy a semi-auto rifle after all the gun stores in their own states sold out of their inventory. So many guns were being sold at the peak of the demand last week that Wright said there were even holdups when attempting to call in federal background checks for prospective buyers.
“Usually it takes two minutes to get one called in,” he said. “We had a few checks where we were on hold for a half hour or longer.”
With all his current merchandise sold, Wright said that, like his clientele, he is eagerly awaiting a resupply of firearms and associated merchandise, but even restocking may not be as streamlined as it typically has been since manufacturers have also been inundated with orders.
“I’ll get stuff in, it’s on the way,” he said. “The manufacturers are still sending stuff to the distributors, and I’ve got orders coming, and backorders in. It just may not be as much as I, or everyone else, would like, or when we’d like. Some places have said they’re backorders may extend for a year out or longer.”