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Store owners watch run on firearm sales

Fri., Jan. 16, 2009, 3:53 p.m.

Gun sales have skyrocketed around the Inland Northwest since the November general election, with gun shop owners citing fears that a Democratic president and Congress will push gun control legislation.

“The day after the election, it started,” said Terry Rogers, owner of All American Arms in Spokane Valley. “It was starting to build before that, but it just went crazy after the election.”

Rogers and other store owners said the most sought-after items are semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity handguns. Customers also are stocking up on ammunition, gunpowder and primers, said John Ragan, owner of the Blue Goose Sport Shop in St. Maries.

“We have a Democratic everything in there,” Ragan said. “There are going to be some more restrictions than we’re used to, at least people think so.”

Police records for Spokane County show guns sales at pawn shops more than doubled from November and December 2007 to November and December 2008. And applications for concealed pistol licenses in Spokane County went up 40 percent in the last two months of 2008, compared to the same months a year earlier, according to police records.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department saw a 65 percent increase in applications for concealed weapon permits in the fourth quarter of 2008, from the same time period in 2007, records show.

President-elect Barack Obama appears to be trying to appeal to both supporters and opponents of gun control. In a February 2008 press conference, he expressed support for an individual’s right to bear arms but said, like most American rights, it is subject to “common-sense regulation.” Obama said he wanted to do a more effective job enforcing gun laws and listed strengthening background checks, tracking guns used in violent crimes to unscrupulous dealers, and closing gun show “loopholes” as important items “on the agenda.”

He also expressed support for federal passage of a law recently passed in California. It would use laser technology to etch a gun’s serial number onto each bullet fired. Obama called that ability to micro-trace bullets used in crimes “the kind of common-sense gun law that gun owners as well as victims of gun violence can get behind.”

Mirroring a national trend, gun owners in the Inland Northwest appear to be responding by purchasing as many guns as possible before Obama takes office. At Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d’Alene, a life-size cutout of Obama stands behind the gun counter adorned with the phrase “Salesman of the Year.”

“There’s a lot of fear of peoples’ gun rights,” said Dave Knoll, owner of Black Sheep, speaking from a gun show in Las Vegas this week. “With a total Democratic Congress, anything’s possible. People are reacting in a strange way.”

Rogers, of All American Arms, said this is the largest run on firearms he’s seen in the 30-plus years he’s been in the business. Despite the tough economy, he said, “my business is doing the best I’ve ever done. I think most gun stores are feeling the same way.”

Contact Alison Boggs at (208) 765-7132 or alisonb@spokesman.com.


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