Firearms sales are booming, largely driven by a fear that recent shootings will lead to new potential restrictions that will place some high-powered weapons off limits.
“If you want to put money in stocks, put it in guns,” said Richard L. DeVries, a Somers Point gun dealer and gunsmith who runs R & R Gunsmiths. “That’s the only thing that’s not going to stop going up.”
Dealers said the renewed interest was driven by calls for stricter weapons laws following recent mass shootings where the shooter used military-style weaponry.
These included the Dec. 14 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, including 20 grade-school children, and the Dec. 24 shooting of firefighters responding to a fire outside of Rochester, N.Y., that killed two and injured three others.
Subsequently, some politicians, including Democratic New Jersey U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, have also called for reinstituting the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. President Barack Obama has asked for “concrete proposals” by the end of January to deal with gun violence.
And some firearms sellers have taken a more subdued approach to marketing their weapons, while Dick’s Sporting Goods, which locally has stores in Mays Landing, Millville and Manahawkin, announced a week before Christmas that it was suspending sales of “modern sporting rifles” in its stores, out of respect for the victims of the Connecticut massacre.
Meanwhile, at online auction sites such as gunbroker.com or gunauction.com, prices some for the Bushmaster AR-15 series semiautomatic rifles, similar to that used in the Connecticut killings, have soared to more than $2,000 apiece.
Similarly, Brownells Inc. recently claimed that it sold 3½ years worth of ammunition magazines in three days, according to a statement attributed to President Pete Brownell and posted on the gun owner forum AR15.com. Brownell apologized for delays, blaming overwhelming demand.
The sharpened interest comes at a time when federal permit data shows surging interest in firearms. Potential buyers have to apply for a check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, before being able to legally purchase a firearm or explosive. Applications through the system are at an all-time high, Federal Bureau of Investigations statistics show.
More than 2 million people applied for a NICS check nationally in November, the most recent data available, marking a nearly 25 percent jump from the previous month. Even with only 11 months of records, more than 16.8 million checks were done in 2012, 2 percent more than 2011 and almost double 2002’s totals.
Gun interest in New Jersey is also up sharply. There were more 8,910 NICS checks in November, a 31 percent increase from the previous month. There were 75,804 NICS checks in the first 11 months of the year, up more than a quarter from the previous full year and almost three quarters more than 2002. Gun dealers complained that State Police, who are the point of contact for New Jersey NICS checks, require all permit requests to be sent to a single fax line that is now constantly busy, 24 hours a day.
At Hidden Acres Firearms in the Landisville section of Buena, Douglas E. Adams said, “Between (Barack Obama’s) election, and the Connecticut shooting, and Christmas, it has just been a frenzy,” Adams said. “Especially for that Bushmaster AR-style gun.”
He has directed some buyers who can’t afford those to a Chinese-made SKS rifle, another semiautomatic rifle.
Adams, a retired Buena police chief, was sanguine about the prospect for gun legislation, saying he believed laws similar to New Jersey, which limit guns to a 15-bullet capacity, are most likely. He thought there was no chance the government would ever enact a gun ban.
“If the federal government says ‘we are taking your guns,’ there’s going to be an internal revolution,” Adams said. “There will be war like no other. That’s just impossible to do. But there are people out there who believe that could happen.”
Neil Lindstrom has run Lindy’s Guns in Barnegat for 36 years. He is a Vietnam War-era Army veteran who specializes in military antiques. Recently, he said, a customer came in looking for more modern weaponry. Lindstrom directed him to nearby dealers, but the person said he had gone to them all, and whatever they had was gone.
Lindstrom explained the rush by saying, “It’s the feeling that people have when they think something is being done away with.”
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