Politics & Government

Will Orlando, Hillary and Trump trigger a run on gun sales?

In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. While the guns look similar, the bottom version is illegal in California because of its quick reload capabilities. Omar Mateen used an AR-15 that he purchased legally when he killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend President Barack Obama and other gun control advocates have repeatedly called for reinstating a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004, but have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress.
In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. While the guns look similar, the bottom version is illegal in California because of its quick reload capabilities. Omar Mateen used an AR-15 that he purchased legally when he killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend President Barack Obama and other gun control advocates have repeatedly called for reinstating a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004, but have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress. AP

It’s coming.

Those who have seen it before say a rush on gun and ammo sales is on the verge of happening again. That’s typically been the case among gun owners fearful that the government will try to limit their purchases.

But this time, there are also signs that a spike in gun sales has begun among gay people, lesbians and others in the LGBT community.

If history is any guide, Americans will be buying up ammo, handguns and other firearms this weekend, building stockpiles after the mass shooting at gay club in Orlando, Fla. — and before November’s presidential election pits Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“People are in a panic,” said DeWayne Irwin, former owner of Cheaper Than Dirt Outdoor Adventures, who now teaches gun safety classes. “They are going to buy ammo, magazines, ARs, AKs, handguns.

“People are terrified they are going to have their guns taken away,” he said. “Trump talks a good talk and they’re scared of him. They’re more scared of Hillary, though.”

Generally, gun stores — and gun instructors — experience a spike in business after any tragic gun incident, as people work to shore up their stockpiles to protect themselves and their families.

Many say their sales were strong before the Orlando shooting, as they are after.

But presidential politics has had one of the biggest impacts on the gun industry in recent years, as buyers have rushed to stock up on guns and ammo, causing shortages and price increases — situations that could again happen this year.

Gun-control advocates say they don’t understand the rush to stock up.

“I don’t know what to think about people who think the answer is one more gun,” said Marsha McCartney, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “I don’t know why their thought process would include that, instead of spending money to help victims and help this not happen again.”

Kenny Frazier, owner of The Crazy Gun Dealer in Alvarado, says he believes that a rush is coming, just not yet.

“I think the real scare will come closer to presidential election time if the race is very close or it looks like Hillary will win,” Frazier said. “I don’t recommend scared buying just anything, but if there is a gun you have been really wanting, I would buy now rather than closer to election time.”

Weapons ban?

Much of the concern has long centered around another ban on assault weapons.

President Bill Clinton signed the last so-called assault weapons ban on Sept. 13, 1994, and it expired 10 years later. Months after he signed the ban, voters went to the polls and the House and Senate flipped from Democratic to Republican control.

When the assault weapon ban came up in Congress for reauthorization in 2004, the measure failed.

During President Barack Obama’s first bid for the White House, he said the government needed to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and enact “common-sense” restrictions after more than three dozen Chicago children were killed.

Gun and ammo sales went through the roof.

When Obama won re-election, sales spiked again because some feared he might finally move forward with gun restrictions in his second term.

It took nearly a year for supplies to become more plentiful and for prices, which spiked because of the demand, to come down.

Obama, who has tried to reform gun laws, said after the Orlando shooting that the country needs to address both terrorism and gun control.

In what is now the country’s deadliest mass shooting, 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando by Omar Mateen, an American-born man who called 911 during the shooting to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State militant group.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has said guns used in the shooting included a .223-caliber AR-type rifle and 9 mm semiautomatic pistol.

Obama said the country needs to counter extremism, but also “make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country. And this is something that obviously I’ve talked about for a very long time.”

After the mass shooting, Clinton repeated her request for another ban on assault weapons. Trump said Mateen could have been neutralized if patrons of the Pulse nightclub had been able to bring their own weapons into the bar.

As for possible future gun regulations, “people are scared,” Irwin said.

But he believes officials “aren’t going to take away what we’ve got. There are too many people who won’t let that happen.”

McCartney, with the Brady Campaign, said she hopes there’s a ban on assault weapons.

“I hope people in Congress find some courage, grow a little backbone and do it now,” she said. “How many times do we have to listen to people say, ‘Let’s pray for the victims’?”

Texas guns

In Texas, more than 1 million people now have a license to carry weapons, according to the most recent Texas Department of Public Safety records, which run through April.

They include more than 71,000 people in Tarrant County.

Texans have been able to carry concealed weapons since 1995. They’ve been able to openly carry since Jan. 1.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, has long wanted to give Texans even more gun rights.

Stickland and other state lawmakers have said they’d like to pass “constitutional carry” — when Texans who carry guns don’t need any permit — during the next legislative session, in 2017.

This has been a top priority for many.

“The concept is simple: No one should have to beg government bureaucrats for permission to defend themselves,” Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said in a statement last year.

‘Hand in hand’

Gun stores across the country generally see a spike in gun and ammunition sales after mass shootings, as people stock up amid talk of new gun control initiatives.

On the first weekday after the Orlando shooting, The Crazy Gun Dealer was among the stores that saw “some increase in traffic,” Frazier said in an email.

“However, my managers have said they have only heard a few people mention being there because of the terror attack at the gun-free bar in Orlando,” he wrote.

In some parts of the country, there has been a boost in sales from the gay and lesbian community, and membership in Pink Pistols, a group that describes itself as being “dedicated to the legal, safe and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community” — has more than doubled since the shooting.

“We no longer believe it is the right of those who hate and fear gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or polyamorous persons to use us as targets for their rage,” the group’s website says. “Self-defense is our RIGHT.”

In Texas, there are Pink Pistols chapters in Dallas, Houston and one in Austin/San Antonio.

Locally, the biggest impact from the Orlando shooting right now appears to be an increase in requests for handgun license training and instruction on using firearms safely.

“My phone has been burning up with people asking about the AR-15,” Irwin said. “They want to buy them and have me teach them” about the weapon.

Damon Ing, spokesman for the Winchester Galley/Shooting Range in Fort Worth, said he’s seen an increase in the number of people signing up for license to carry classes.

Other than that, he and others are waiting to see how gun stores and online shops will be affected by the Orlando shooting and this presidential year.

“Firearms and politics go hand in hand,” said Ing, also a handgun license instructor. “But the tragic event [in Orlando] … may influence people.

“I anticipate as we get closer to the presidential election, [the shooting] will feed into what happens.”

Anna M. Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley

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