Gun ownership rising

Published 3:49 pm Monday, December 29, 2008

The Saturday after Barack Obama was elected president, people jammed Cook’s Gun Shop in Biloxi, eager to purchase the guns they believe might be off-limits beginning next year.

Manager Michael Creel said sales began to increase last year, but really ramped up after the election.

“It started about a year ago when the election started to heat up,” he said. “People were afraid that if the Democrats won they would institute more control on guns. It kept building, and the Saturday after the election it was pandemonium in here.”

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Gun shop owners and managers throughout South Mississippi are reporting similar trends, which also are reflected across the country.

The FBI reported earlier this month that in November it completed more than 1.5 million background checks, a 41.6 percent increase over November 2007 when the agency performed just over 1 million checks.

When Bill Clinton was president he signed a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994, but when it expired President Bush did not reactivate it. Many gun owners are afraid that ban will be put into effect again once Obama takes office next month.

Kevin Riley, owner of Dad’s Super Pawn in Gulfport, said gun sales began picking up about a month before the election. He said ammunition sales also have increased.

“Our gun sales and our ammunition sales both have gone through the roof,” he said. “We’re selling ammunition by the case where we used to sell it by the box.

He said people are afraid of stricter gun-control laws, but they also believe the price could go up if supplies get low.

Riley and Creel said the most popular guns include handguns, semiautomatic rifles and specific military-type guns that are set up for civilians.

They haven’t kept track of the number of gun sales before and after the election, but both said they are selling more guns.

“After Katrina was the most guns I had ever sold in my life,” Riley said. “People were replacing guns they lost in the storm, and they were buying guns to protect their property.”

He said his gun sales haven’t quite reached the post-Katrina levels, but they’re almost there.

Obama has said in the past he believes state and local governments should have some say over gun control. He also has said he believes in a “commonsense approach” to curtail the number of illegal guns that end up on the streets.

Those comments have caused gun owners all across the U.S. to buy guns now before any new laws go into effect.

Jerry Frayser, owner of Jerry’s Shootin’ Irons and Pawns in Ocean Springs, said people have bought so many guns, supplies are now a problem.

“People have pretty much scooped up what they think will be outlawed,” he said, adding sales have been as high in the past month as they were in the previous six months.

“There were so many people who said, ’Let me get what I can while I can’ and distributors weren’t prepared for it,” Frayser said. He also said one of his gun distributors sold $3 million worth the day after the election.

Creel said he understands why people are nervous, but he doesn’t think gun control is tops on Obama’s to-do list once he takes office.

“He’s got bigger fish to fry — like the economy.”

Under guns laws in Mississippi:

— No permit is required to purchase or carry rifles, shotguns or handguns.

— No registration or license is required for owners of rifles, shotguns or handguns.

— A permit is required to carry a concealed handgun.