Valdosta Daily Times

Business

January 20, 2013

Local gun sales, permit applications on the rise

VALDOSTA — Call it a reaction to upcoming gun legislation that the 113th Congress and state Congresses will be debating in weeks to come. Call it parents wanting to protect themselves and their families, or call it simply more citizens interested in gun sports and hunting: whichever you choose, there’s no denying that gun sales have been on the rise at the national, state, and local levels.

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, reported 19,592,303 background checks for a firearm purchase in 2012, an increase in checks of more than 3 million from 2011 to 2012, compared to an increase of 2 million from 2010 to 2011 and an increase of slightly less than 400,00 from 2009 to 2010. While background checks to gun purchases are not on a 1:1 ratio — a buyer may change his or her mind, or one buyer may buy multiple guns — it’s a clear indicator that firearm purchases are on the rise.

Also on the rise are gun permit applications. Since December, the Lowndes County Probate Court has had a sudden influx in applications.

“We usually see an increase in applications around Christmas,” said Chief Clerk Shelley McLeod, but starting the week of Dec. 17, the Monday following the shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., applications for permits went noticeably up.

As of Jan. 15, the Probate Court has already had 142 gun permit applications in the new year, a 52 percent increase from last January’s total gun permit applications, which puts the Probate Court on track for tripling their permit applications from last January to this January. McLeod noted that recent applicants range widely in age, occupation and past firearm experience. She feels that the recent increase in permit applications is mostly due to safety concerns.

 “Everybody’s concerned [with safety], all the way around,” she said.

The Little River Sportsman’s Association, a local gun club that has promoted “safe and enjoyable shooting opportunities” since its establishment in 1984, has seen a recent increase in membership.

“Starting in October, we’ve been seeing a lot of new faces,” said club secretary and treasurer Don DiStefano.

While assault rifles and accessories are the most popular items in recent months, vendors have seen all gun sales rise across the board.

“We’ve sold out of AR ammo, .223 and .22,” says Dan Strickland of Owens Gunsmithing in Quitman, “but we’ve been selling more of everything.”

The gunsmithing side of the business has had a waiting list for months and even parts for basic handguns are getting harder to find and order. Burke Lott of Whidden Gunworks in Nashville also reports increased sales, from people wanting an entire rifle overhauled to people just wanting a barrel adjustment.

Of course, as demand rises, so do prices, particularly on online auctions.

“It’s just history repeating itself,” said Don Brotherton, of Don’s Fast Cash. “You saw the same thing when Bill Clinton got into office in ‘92, ‘93. His propaganda sold more guns than anything else you could imagine.”

Although Brotherton hasn’t traded in guns since 2004, he reports seeing a similar rise in prices for assault rifles, accessories and ammunition just before the Federal Assault Rifles Ban in 1994.

Clinton Thornburg agrees. “When the Brady bill passed, the value shot up tremendously,” said Thornburg, a former Marine who spent years helping run a pawn shop that bought and sold guns. “What you see now is like investors and oil futures; buyers and sellers are trying to predict what the market will do and what lawmakers will do.”

Thornburg, who still sells occasionally through online auctions, has seen the prices on auctions shoot up.

 “A previously issued AR-15 military magazine that used to fetch $11 now gets bids of up to nearly $100,” he said.

Most assault rifles are doubling or tripling in asking prices; the same for accessories: grips, scopes, slings, magazines.

With President Obama’s press conference Wednesday where he asked Congress to consider an assault rifle ban and limiting magazines to 10 rounds, it’s unlikely that gun prices and gun demand will settle down anytime soon. And with a record number of NICS last year, it’s safe to assume that a fair number of those are for new gun owners.

“It’s appreciable and commendable that [people] want to own a firearm for home protection,” Edward Braun said. “But...it’s a serious thing.” Braun, an English instructor with Valdosta State University who also runs Alef Forge, a gun smithy and custom knife forge, advises new gun owners to get proper training and that if they decide to frequent a gunsmith, that they ensure they have had proper training.

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