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Article published December 12, 2012
Gun permit requests, sales soar
Barack Obama’s re-election seen as key
Kelly B. Garrett Butler Eagle
The number of gun permits issued in Butler County this year has nearly doubled from 2011, and the year isn’t over. According to county licensing records, 3,671 licenses to carry a gun were issued in 2011. As of last week, 6,302 licenses had been issued this year. Some gun store owners in the county have more customers than they have guns for sale. Some gun manufacturers are far behind in production, and now ammunition stocks are being depleted. Why the run on guns? There are several theories, but the overriding factor appears to be the re-election of President Barack Obama. Grant Williams, president of Sportsman’s Supply, 245 Freeport Road-Route 356, said that a similar rush happened in 2008, when Obama was first elected, and it started again at his store the week before the Nov. 6 election this year. Varney & Co., a show on Fox Business, reported that there were 154,873 background checks made nationally on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Oliver North, a former U.S. Marine and a former aide to the late President Reagan, and now a commentator on the Fox News channel, said on that show that those gun sales are a result of Obama’s re-election and what North said is the fear that the administration will ban certain “so-called” assault weapons. Looking at the gun buying in the county, Williams said, “There are three different theories at work here that I have heard from my customers.” The first is that some people just feel unsafe and decided to get a gun for protection. The next, Williams said, are those who want to make a political statement, specifically when it comes to laws that restrict gun ownership. “Last, there are people who don’t want to invest their money in computers or other things that aren’t going to last,” Williams said. “If you take care of it, a gun will always accrue in value. So these people are looking for an investment that will last. “But first and foremost, people seem to be getting guns for a sense of security,” he said, adding that buyers come from all socioeconomic backgrounds. “Rich, not so well off, all races and genders, all ages plus people like same-sex couples — everyone wants a gun,” Williams added. Joe Leone, owner of Gun World in Harrisville, said he has seen the same interest with his sales heating up at the beginning of the year in anticipation of the election. “People wanted to make sure to get guns that may be subject to restrictions, such as handguns, defensive shotguns, AR-15s and high capacity clips,” Leone said. Defensive shotguns are shotguns that hold more shells for self-protection, he said. The interest in buying a gun was evident on a recent Thursday as the stream of customers, while never stacking up in Gun World, came in steadily, as did calls from buyers searching for specific guns. Watching this traffic flow, the logical assumption would be that Gun World and its competitors are having a great business year. “And that would be true,” Leone said, “if I could get all the guns people want, but about a year ago the manufacturers like Ruger and others fell behind in production, so I can’t make all the sales I might be able to because I don’t have the guns.” It’s not that Leone’s walls and showcases are empty — far from it. But it’s the customers who don’t want just a gun, but request a specific brand and model that store owners are having trouble helping. “That’s why we’re on the phone so much. We are working as hard as we can to get what our customers want,” Leone said. So what does county Sheriff Mike Slupe think about all the guns that are being sold and all the new gun owners? “I think it’s great,” Slupe said. “I think everyone should be armed.” He explained that statistics show states with conceal carry gun laws have lower crime rates than those that don’t. “I believe it is a deterrent to criminals because you just don’t know who’s going to be able to shoot back,” Slupe said. The sheriff did say he is “100 percent for gun safety, and I totally believe that gun owners should learn how to safely use their weapons. After all, we are talking about something that can take a life.” While there are no public gun ranges in the county, there are several private clubs that gun owners can join. Slupe said the county offers its own basic gun safety and training courses twice a year, once each in the spring and in the fall. Students have to provide their own guns and ammunition, be at least 21 years old, and bring their driver’s licenses. “Everyone should know basic gun safety, and they should know as much as they can about a weapon they own,” he said. To learn about the Butler County gun classes, go to the Butler County Sheriff’s website at www.co.butler.pa.us/butler/cwp/view.