What do you get when you add a faltering economy with Obama change?
Increased gun sales, for one thing.
Ever since Barack Obama was elected president in early November, Americans have been stocking up on guns and ammunition in unprecedented numbers.
Speculation is that the increased sales are driven by a nervous populace — a portion of it, anyway — wanting to be able to defend themselves in tough times, and by fears that the new president and Democratic-dominated Congress may not be especially gun-friendly.
I asked Stuart Wallin, a local gun-seller, what he thinks.
"Well, I would agree with both those points," he said. "You're seeing tough economic times for a lot of people, and they might be worrying about protecting what they have, and I hear so many people ask, 'Is Obama going to ban guns?' that I almost get tired of hearing about it."
Wallin owns the subliminally titled "Get Some" gun store in Murray.
He's been in business since 2003 and sales, he says, have grown incrementally as his business has expanded. Besides selling guns, he has a shooting range where you can try them out and practice, and he offers gun safety and concealed weapons permit classes.
But sales the last few months have been off the charts.
"October was our biggest month ever," he says, "followed by November, our biggest month ever, followed by December, our biggest month ever."
January might not follow suit, but not from lack of interest. Wallin simply can't get all the guns that people want.
"We've had a hard time getting stuff in," he says. "All the gun stores are having the same problem."
In particular demand are AR-15 rifles. An AR-15, as Wallin explains, is the civilian version of the M-16 rifle commonly used by soldiers. They are assault-style guns with a detachable magazine.
"I was averaging about two AR-15 sales a day until October," says Wallin. "Then one day I sold 29 AR-15s. The next day I sold 46. I can't keep them in stock."
The numbers at "Get Some" reflect statistics recently released by the FBI that show that background checks for prospective gun buyers nationally went up dramatically over the last quarter of 2008. The number of requests climbed 42 percent from November 2007 compared to November 2008 and 24 percent from December 2007 compared to December 2008.
One gun-friendly Web site sardonically proclaimed Barack Obama the "Gun Salesman of the Year."
Wallin's not sure if Obama will turn out to be a gun-owner's newest worst friend or not, but he's very wary of the Congress.
"It's not Obama I fear, it's the people in Congress who are in power," he said. "They don't like guns, period. Not even as a sport."
If Congress and the president are going to reinstate an assault-weapon ban — only allowing guns that hold 10 rounds or less — it only makes sense to buy the assault-style guns now, while they are legal.
"I better get my gun now," said Wallin. "That's what people are thinking."70 comments on this story
On top of all that, applications for concealed weapons permits are on the upswing.
"Since October, every one of my classes has been full," said Wallin. "We run about six classes a month, 15 to 20 per class. All of our classes are filled for a month and a half right now."
He added as an aside, "Many of these people have never shot guns before."
What all this means, other than a lot more guns out there, I'm really not sure. I thought perhaps you might.
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to email@example.com.