Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everybody's gettng one: Guns that is.

Gun sales soar amid fears of Barack Obama weapons ban
President Barack Obama may never have fired a gun but he is turning out to be one of the best firearms salesman in American history

By Toby Harnden in Memphis
Published: 4:24PM BST 11 Jul 2009

"I've sold probably four times as much in the last six months as I have in 20 years combined," said Cliff Hunter, owner of Tommy Bronson Sporting Goods in Memphis. "Hand guns and the tactical weapons, they're absolutely off the charts."

Most of his gun sales used to be for hunting, or personal protection in a city riddled with crime. But just before the November election, anxiety that Mr Obama would win and enact a radical programme of curtailing gun rights began drove business right up.

"Obama's a liberal socialist and I think he's proven quickly how extreme he is," he said. "When they get through healthcare, guns are on the table. They're not talking about it but it's going to happen."

The FBI recorded a 49 per cent rise in gun background checks during election week compared to the same week a year earlier.

"Sales have been up 50, 60 per cent sinces Osama got elected," said Jay Hill, owner of the Classic Firearms gun store in Cordova, just outside Memphis, smiling as he deliberately mixed up the name of the US president with the leader of al-Qaeda.

"He speaks with a forked tongue. I don't trust him a bit."

Crime would always mean there was a demand for gun, especially in a state like Tennessee which is in the South and where permits to carry a concealed weapon are available.

This week, a travelling jewellery salesman who was ambushed by four men, at least two of them armed, pulled out his pistol and shot two of them. The other two would-be robbers fled as the wounded men lay moaning on the ground.

"Bingo," said Mr Hill. "They're in critical condition in hospital last time I heard. He had a hand gun and a legal carry permit, so he's back at home having dinner with the kids. Mark one up for the good guy."

While Mr Hill does not believe an outright ban would be attempted, he suspects that a "backdoor" attempt to limit gun ownership might be on the cards.

"What they want to do is limit the amount of handguns you can buy, assault rifles, things like that. The constitution doesn't say you have the right to keep and bear ammunition. A car's no good without gasoline so one way you can get to banning or controlling guns is by attacking the ammo."

Sales of high-end collectible rifles, which cost several thousand dollars, have fallen as the recession has deepened. But the value of military-style rifles such as the AR-15, a semi-automatic civilian variant of the US military’s fully-automatic M-16, had increased by at least 25 per cent.

This has made modern rifles a potentially lucrative investment. Some people are banking on Mr Obama introducing gun control legislation, a move that would lead to a hefty profit as demand soared and people scrambled to beat a ban on purchases.

A week before the election, Mr Hunter bought about 20 SIG 556 rifles. "I'd probably sold six or eight of those in 20 years. I placed one call to an investment firm here in Memphis and within 45 minutes every one had been pre-sold.

"People are afraid they won't be able to get them in the future. Everybody's guessing what they [the Obama administration] are going to do. People are stockpiling ammunition. We're just starting to see more inventory on that but ammo is not slowing down." Americans, he said, would not allow their Second Amendment right to bear arms to be taken away from them.

"The country's divided but this is something that's dear to a true American's heart. It goes way back to the cowboy days when a gun was a man's most prized possession."

Jason Hart, 31, who was buying ammunition from Mr Hill's store, said: "I was raised not to have a gun. My mum told me to stay away from them. But we get four or five murders a day here in Memphis.

"Everybody else has guns, especially since Obama came in and people got afraid and started buying. I've been in a lot of situations where I was able to fight my way out because I'm a martial artist. But everybody has a gun I didn't want to be the only one without one."

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