Gun sales going ballistic Fears of regulation, crime spur sales of firearms and ammo

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By Don Lehman
dlehman@poststar.com

Updated: Friday, March 20, 2009 10:32 AM EDT

Gunmakers can thank a former New York senator and presidential candidate for an ongoing boom in gun sales, if you ask one local firearms vendor.

George Nemec, owner of Nemec’s Sport Shop & Farm & Garden Center in Warrensburg, said gun sales at his business began to increase about two years ago, after Sen. Hillary Clinton announced her intent to run for president. People were concerned about the possible impact of a Democratic president on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“Handguns, shotguns, rifles — it’s every type,” Nemec said. “People are worried the government is going to take their guns away, or they’re going to tax them (guns and ammunition) to death.”

With a Democratic president in office and economic troubles fueling fears of rising crime, guns — and the rounds they fire — are a hot commodity these days.

Across the country, gun dealers are reporting a big uptick in sales of both firearms and ammunition. Requests for federal background checks for prospective gun buyers have surged since last fall, with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reporting a nearly 50 percent increase after the election of President Barack Obama.

Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, said gun and ammunition sales around the country have risen in recent months.

He said many are concerned a Democratic president and Democratic-controlled Congress will change gun laws and could potentially ban certain types of firearms, like those commonly referred to as assault rifles. Democratic lawmakers are generally viewed as less friendly to gun owners than their Republican counterparts.

“We’re hearing it around the country. People are concerned about losing their guns,” King said. “If they buy them now, they’ll be grandfathered if the laws are changed.”

Locally, gun dealers are seeing a number of trends when it comes to sales and purchases of firearms and ammunition.

Most said gun sales are up, while others said they are steady. Ammunition sales have risen dramatically, they agreed.

“We’re selling a lot of guns. It’s been that way since November,” said Kevin Zacharewicz, owner of Zack’s Sport’s in Round Lake. “Handgun sales are up; self-defense shotguns are up. People are worried about what’s going on financially.”

Zacharewicz said state government trends are also motivating sales in New York. The state Senate is now controlled by Democrats, which has many gun owners in the Empire State concerned about what gun-control laws might be pursued.

“There’s a lot of concern about the government and what they’re going to do,” said John West, whose family runs The Crossroads Country Store & Sport Shop.

At MacGregor’s Gun Shop in Queensbury, owner Scott MacGregor said he’s seen a “sudden influx” of customers wanting to buy “home defense-type weapons,” like shotguns.

Everyone interviewed by The Post-Star for this story agreed ammunition of all calibers has gotten tougher to find, as gun owners stock up. Prices skyrocketed in recent years as metal prices went up, which caused many gun owners to stock up in anticipation of rising ammunition prices.

There are also concerns that some larger calibers, or those used by military-type weapons, could be banned, restricted or taxed more heavily.

One northern Warren County resident found out recently the government is paying attention to such ammunition sales.

West said a customer of his recently stocked up on .223-caliber rounds, a caliber often used in assault-style weapons. The customer bought 1,000 rounds a few months ago through a mail order company.

Shortly after the purchase, he received a visit from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, whose interest was apparently piqued by a large-scale purchase of that caliber.

“His wife was home. He was at church,” West said.

“People are buying a lot of ammunition in bulk these days,” said Kathie Ferullo, owner of Discoveries USA, an outdoors outfitter in Warrensburg that sells guns and ammo. “For some types, we have to wait on a waiting list.”

The down economy is also causing people to liquidate some of their valuable assets, including guns.

West said his business hasn’t seen a big rise in gun sales, but it has seen a rise in people wishing to sell guns to his store for economic reasons. He said one man recently brought in an 80-year-old antique rifle to sell because he needed money.

“We’ve had guys come in with three or four guns to sell,” he said.

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