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Local Arkansas Gun Sales Increase Since Election

This story was written by Jack Willems, Arkansas Traveler

November is a busy time of year for Phil Ezell, owner of Ozark Sportsman Supply in Tontitown. As a gun shop owner, the beginning of hunting season is a time of increased business, Ezell said. Still, this year sales are up by about a third of what they normally would be, he said. It's pretty simple to understand why, Ezell said.

"Obama is the most anti-gun person who's ever been near the White House," Ezell said. "Check his record in Illinois. He voted for gun restrictions in virtually every case."

Ezell is not the only one who thinks so, apparently. Despite economic troubles, gun sales rose 9 percent between January and September this year, according to FBI statistics.

Steve Sturm, owner of Sturm's Indoor Gun Range in Springdale, has also seen an increase in sales since the election, he said.

"There are distributors I know who have hardly anything left in their stores," Sturm said.

The 2008 Arkansas Poll showed an eight-point decrease in the number of people who thought gun control laws should be stricter, while those who thought there should be no changes in the law increased.

This surprised the pollsters considering the fact that the same year Bill Gwatney, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, was shot by a lone gunman in a high profile case of gun violence, said Janine Parry, professor of political science at the UA.

"This was not the shift in opinion that we expected," Parry said.

What they did not consider at the time was that respondents were hoping for no changes in gun laws in anticipation of a coming Democratic administration, Parry said.

There was also an increase in gun sales in 1992 when Bill Clinton won the presidential election, and another increase occurred in 1993, said Gary Kleck, a professor of sociology at Florida State University who has researched the topic. After 1993, gun sales steadily declined until 2001, Kleck said.

Higher gun sales do not lead to higher crime, but higher crime may lead to more gun sales, Kleck said.

People who feel threatened by violent crime are more likely to buy handguns, but most of those who buy handguns will not be criminals as a result of background checks, Kleck said.

In the long run, it may lead to higher homicide rates because criminals obtain firearms mainly by stealing guns, and the more guns out there the more targets they have, Kleck said.

"In the first nine months or so there will be no effect," Kleck said.

Local gun owners expressed anxiety about the coming administration.

The Democratic Party has a proven track record of placing restrictions on gun ownership, said Chris Potter from Fayetteville. There are plenty of gun restrictions as it is, and new ones are not needed, Potter said.

Randy Ross of Rogers has a habit of trying to buy guns every month, but he has increased his buying recently, Ross said. He knows there has been a rush to get pistols, ammo and AR-15 Rifles, he said. Ross worries about being able to buy automatic weapons under a Democratic administration, he said.

"His cell phone has a video where they shoot machine guns for three minutes straight," said Joe Landrith, a friend of Ross. "You won't be able to do that under Obama."

The rush to buy guns and ammo has raised prices for both, Landrith said. Landrith recently went to a gun show looking for bargains and found the guns were just as expensive as they were at Sturm's shop, he said.

Sturm is concerned about the Obama administration because his industry suffers under tighter gun laws, and there are enough regulations as it is, he said.

While he thinks it canges the business, Ezell believes the guns that are likely to be restricted are not the kind his shop sells, he said.

"We will continue to sell guns," Ezell said. "We think."

Barack Obama has stated that he supports the 2nd Amendment but thinks local governments have the right to regulate guns, according to the Web site, Obama also endorsed a ban on the possession and sale of handguns in Illinois, cosponsored a bill to limit gun purchases to one a month while in the Illinois state legislature and voted against prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers for the misuse of their products, according to the Web site. Obama did vote to allow retired police officers to carry a concealed weapon while in the Illinois legislature.

While their fears could be justified, Barack Obama will probably not prioritize gun control when he gets into office, said Allan Saavedra, a sophomore civil engineering major from Miami, Fla. The increase in gun sales does not frighten Saavedra, he said.

"When I think of guns, I think of deer hunting and property protection. I don't think of gun violence," Saavedra said.

While Obama may have promised more gun control, he may not be able to follow through on everything he promised, said Jessica Gahr, a junior psychology major. Gahr, an Obama supporter, said she thinks that people have the right to own guns, but there should be more restrictions. Gahr believes the people buying guns now are doing it for psychological reasons, though she does not understand why, she said.

"A lot of what you say during a campaign is just talk to get you into office," Gahr said.

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