Amid Talk Of Tighter Gun Controls, Local Residents Rush To Stock Up
Posted: January 25, 2013
By JEREMY HUNT
Gary McBride, 57, of Rockingham County turns in paperwork to Deputy Clerk of Circuit Court Heather Reardon on Thursday for his first concealed-carry permit. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — The threat of gun control legislation has sparked an arms race locally and throughout the country as dealers scrap over waning inventory and nervous consumers stock up on what’s available.
President Barack Obama’s election to a first term in 2008 sparked an increase in sales of ammunition and firearms as enthusiasts worried the Democrat and his colleagues who took control of the House and Senate would seek to restrict gun access.
But the recent surge — which comes in the wake of Obama’s election to a second term, the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre and subsequent calls for tighter gun laws — blows the previous jump out of the water, according to Shane Farren, an employee of Ashby Arms in Harrisonburg.
“Honestly, there is no comparison. … Ten-plus years of doing this and I’ve never seen inventory of our distributors remotely being this low,” he said.
Most distributors have massive delays for orders, while others have stopped taking orders altogether as they struggle to keep up with demand, said Dennis Golden, owner of Ashby Arms. It’s a trend occurring at stores throughout the country.
That leaves shop owners like Golden staying up into the wee hours of the morning and getting up early to scour the Web for products as soon as they become available for purchase.
“There’s stuff that comes in stock online, and we have to jump on it immediately,” he said.
The arms race isn’t just keeping sellers busy.
Clerks at Rockingham County Circuit Court have had their hands full in recent weeks processing applications for concealed-carry permits.
Applications are up fivefold so far this year, Clerk Chaz Evans-Haywood said.
As of Thursday, his office had received 310 applications, compared to 61 over the same period last January.
Because of holidays, the clerk’s office had been open 15 days this month through Thursday, or the equivalent of three regular business weeks. Yet the number of applications filed so far this year is greater than one-quarter of the total for all of 2012, which had 1,156, Evans-Haywood said.
Many people coming in for a concealed-carry permit feel they need to get one while they still can do so easily, he said.
“These are law-abiding citizens. That’s important to say,” Evans-Haywood said.
One of those seeking a permit Thursday, Gary McBride, 57, of Rockingham County, said this was the first time he’s applied.
McBride said the decision followed his recent acquisition of a handgun from his son-in-law.
“I just want to make sure [that] if I do carry, I’m legal,” he said.
The potential for more restrictive concealed-carry laws did play a role in his decision as well, he said.
Recent mass shootings, like the one that left 26 people dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, do not raise as much of a personal safety concern for him as do crimes that occur closer to home, McBride said.
“You see home invasion-type things becoming more common in this area,” he said.
A recent brutal incident in off-campus student housing in Harrisonburg highlights McBride’s concern. In that crime, two teens are accused of breaking into a 22-year-old woman’s apartment off Port Republic Road and violently raping her in October.
Gun control legislation appeared to gain its greatest momentum in years after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, in which a gunman used a Bushmaster assault rifle to slaughter 20 6- and 7-year-olds and six staff members.
Even pro-gun Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — both of whom have been endorsed by the National Rifle Association — said the incident changed the debate.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation to ban assault weapons and prohibit magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Even if the bill clears the Democratic-controlled Senate, it will face tough opposition in the Republican-dominated House.
Still, the prospect is driving some people to buy guns, said Sam Taylor, owner of Pawn Emporium in Harrisonburg.
“People are saying they feel their gun rights are going to be taken away,” he said.
It’s a similar story elsewhere, Golden said.
“What we hear a lot is the government’s proposed infringements on personal liberty are kind of driving their sales,” he said. “In addition to that, it’s the additional concern for their own safety and well-being.”