As Washington searches for ways to stop gun violence, a local gun dealer offered a solution – sell more guns.
And for Dennis Salem, owner of Sporting Goods Discounters, that’s easy.
He described gun sales at his store in the University Park Plaza as “explosive.”
“Because of Obama’s threat to take our guns away,” said Salem.
President Barack Obama last week announced a sweeping plan to curb gun violence in America through legislation and executive action.
The proposals include mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales; reinstating the ban on some assault-style weapons; a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; and a crackdown on illicit weapons trafficking.
Proposed gun restrictions have prompted unprecedented demand for the type of firearms commonly known as assault weapons.
As a result, gun dealers and suppliers across the country are having trouble keeping them in stock.
“We’re running out of everything – guns and ammunition,” Salem explained. “Manufacturers can’t keep up and our suppliers are exhausted of their inventory.”
Salem estimates he has probably sold 800 assault-style rifles in the past month alone.
Customers crowded the sporting goods store last week, buying guns and ammunition.
One customer joked that he wanted Salem’s autograph to send to Obama.
Another customer was stocking up on .223 ammo for his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in anticipation of a sharp rise in prices spurred by high demand.
Some gun retailers have lauded the president as a driving force behind sales.
“Obama’s turned out to be the best salesman we’ve had in years,” said Chuck Ahearn, co-owner of Alleghany Trading Co. in Duncansville.
Fear, paranoia and a distrust of the government, coupled with the media hype, have created an atmosphere conducive to business, said Ahearn, a Vietnam War veteran.
“All they’ve done is create a huge demand,” he said.
“I’ve had retired people who have never owned a firearm in their lives come in because they’re scared,” Ahearn said.
Even some guns that are not on the proposed ban list are being scooped up by customers, such as five-shot revolvers, he said.
Glenn Fisher has operated Mountain Man Sport Shop on Garrett Shortcut Road near Somerset for 18 years.
He, too, is experiencing high demand for guns.
“That’s the way it gets when you have a scare like this with gun control,” he said. “Some things you can’t get, like semi-automatic rifles and some semi-automatic handguns. Manufacturers aren’t able to keep up.”
Fisher said most of the guns he carries are for hunting. He doesn’t carry many semi-automatic rifles, but will order them if a customer requests.
Reaction to Obama
Gun-control supporters praised Obama’s proposals.
“These are reforms that should have been law in the country decades ago,” Christian Heyne, of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said in a statement.
“In the wake of the gruesome mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we now have the opportunity to make sure future generations of Americans will not have to endure similar horrors,” said Heyne, who lost his mother in a gun-related homicide.
CeaseFirePA said in a statement that it also supports Obama’s plan.
“We support closing the private-seller loophole and requiring background checks for all gun sales as well as ammunition sales,” said Shira Goodman, executive director.
The group also supports a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Gun sellers brush aside such remarks, saying gun control will only hurt the law-abiding citizenry.
“If assault weapons are banned only the criminals will have them,” Salem said. “And you won’t be able to defend yourself against the criminals who have them.”