Inland area sees boom in gun sales

10:00 PM PST on Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Press-Enterprise

Gun dealers from Murrieta to Redlands say business is booming out of fear for the future of gun ownership since voters elected Barack Obama president and gave Democrats a solid majority in Congress.

"We probably sold more guns last week than the entire month of October," said Jerry Wehunt of JW Guns & Accessories in Riverside.

Statewide, California Department of Justice employees in Sacramento are working overtime and weekends to handle the influx of requests for state-required background checks on gun purchasers.

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Steven Buford, program manager for the department's Bureau of Firearms, said about 1,000 guns normally are sold in California each day. Two thousand were sold Tuesday, and 2,400 were purchased Saturday, he said.

"I've not seen numbers like this since the LA riots (in 1992)," Buford said.

The spike mirrors a national trend. From Nov. 3-9, the number of gun-buyer background checks conducted by the federal government rose nearly 54 percent as compared with the same period in 2007, according to the FBI.

Wehunt said this happened the last time a Democrat occupied the White House.

"Bill Clinton did a lot for sales," Wehunt said.

The Brady Bill, which required background checks for handgun buyers, and the now-expired assault weapons ban went into effect during the Clinton administration.

Obama's campaign site states he favors "commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them."

The Web site states Obama supports making the assault weapons ban permanent and making all guns childproof.

Customers at The Shootist in Murrieta said Wednesday that they are worried about the prospect of future gun laws.

"The freedoms we cherish and hold dear, especially our Second Amendment rights, (Obama) doesn't appreciate and wants to eliminate," said Justin Alfred of Murrieta, who described the president-elect's ideology as "Marxist/socialist."

"It's a reasonable response for people ... to be able to exercise that right and purchase firearms now," he added.

Alfred said he already owns guns and came to The Shootist to see what was in stock.

The store's owner, Randy Archbold, said he is seeing a lot of first-time buyers and interest in "home defense" firearms, such as handguns. He said gun warehouses are running out of certain types of firearms -- Glock pistols, for example.

Garrett Searle, part owner of BJ Sporting Goods in Hemet, estimated that sales have been up 10 to 12 percent since a month before the election. He said the sales spike was similar to the days following 9/11.

"There's definitely a lot of people coming in" because they're worried about stricter gun control, Searle said.

Steve Smith, owner of Pro Defensive Firearms in Redlands, said his wholesalers are starting to report shortages. Semi-automatic rifles are especially in demand, he said.

Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez, a Riverside County Sheriff's Department spokesman, said gun purchasing is a legal activity and declined to comment on the increase in sales.

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said people rushing to gun stores are buying into hysteria.

He noted the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that struck down Washington, D.C.'s, handgun ban and handed a major victory to gun-rights activists.

"If you pay attention to the gun issue in America, we are making slow progress when we make progress at all," he said.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com

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