Gun sales shoot through the roof in Maryland
Administration change drives concerns over weapons restrictions
Brian Lewis/The Gazette
Gun sales have soared across the state, according to store managers, driven largely by fears that gun laws will become more restrictive following the power and policy shifts in Washington, D.C.
"There's not enough to supply the demand right now," said Alan Rolinec, who owns The Gun Rack in Burtonsville.
Usually in a down economy, certain businesses don't suffer, and gun retailers are among them, said Stephen Schneider, owner of Atlantic Guns in Rockville and Silver Spring. "I think the big factor is the election and uncertainty about what it will mean to gun control."
Some of the increase most likely comes from D.C. residents, who are now allowed to buy guns in Maryland.
But sales are also up far from the District of Columbia line.
At The Bank gun shop in Havre de Grace, sales have risen "probably 25 percent," said owner Diane Barrow.
"Anytime we have an election year, people start panicking," whether there's a new president or a new governor, Barrow said.
"It's changed from hunting to people getting anything they want" while they can, said Susie Bailey of the Gun Shack in Mount Airy.
At Southern Maryland Firearms in Leonardtown, business is probably up 30 percent to 40 percent "across the board," said owner Tom Bennett, who has been in the gun business almost 40 years.
"We're selling a lot of guns we don't usually sell in hunting season," Bennett said.
"I've seen peaks like this before, when they passed the assault weapons ban," Bennett said.
Customers believe the new presidential administration is against guns, Bennett said.
As an Illinois and U.S. senator, President-elect Barack Obama backed several gun control measures.
His Web site www.barack
obama.com says he wants to make guns "childproof, to make the assault weapons ban permanent and to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts local law enforcement access to information they could use to trace guns.
But Obama also said during the campaign that he believed, as a general principle, that the Constitution confers an individual the right to bear arms. He was quoted as saying, "I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns."
Shooters also are worried that the new administration will raise taxes on guns and ammunition, said Dick Gilbert, owner of Gilbert Indoor Range in Rockville, where practice rounds are up about 30 percent.
Statistics are not yet available for gun sales in Maryland after Nov. 4, but comparisons of January through October 2007 to the same period this year show applications for handguns and guns classified as assault weapons rose 6.5 percent, according to the Maryland State Police, which reviews applications and approves or rejects the purchase requests. Sales of the weapons have risen almost 6.2 percent in 2008, police said.
Some buyers are worried that guns will be less available under the Obama administration, and some — "especially older folks"— are afraid that the troubled economy portends a rise in crime, said Jack Moberly, manager of The Gun Center in Frederick, where he estimates sales have increased as much as 25 percent.
At Manchester Shooter's Supply in Bishopville, northwest of Ocean City near the Delaware line, sales are "about double," said owner-manager Wayne Trakney.
Many of the sales are for "home defense shotguns," he said. Shotguns are not included in the sales numbers tracked by state police.
Some gun store owners were reluctant to comment and refused to discuss any increase.
"We've elected not to respond to the media, period; it's just going to cause problems," said Fred Kirchner, vice president of the Maryland Association of Firearms Retailers and owner of Fred's Firearm Service in Chestertown.