Local gun stores say sales are up since measures proposed

One store says business has risen 10-fold in recent months
Feb. 04, 2013 @ 05:11 PM

New gun control legislation proposed by President Barack Obama has created enough concern over the future availability of some guns and ammunition to have them flying of local shelves, but shop and firing range owners indicate they’re encouraging customers not to assume the worst.

“It’s up ten-fold at least, a lot of increased business,” said Chris Clepper, owner of Rocky Top Armory.

The increase didn’t come right after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., or even the first reports an assault rifle was used, he said.

“Actually it wasn’t the school shooting that created the demand as much as our politicians talking about gun control,” Clepper said.

The response has been pretty specific, especially when it comes to which weapons are selling, he said. “It’s s everything they’re talking about banning is what’s selling the most. The other guns are normal or even less.”

Obama has proposed a reinstatement of an assault weapons ban, limits on the size of magazines that hold ammo on guns and elimination of armor piercing bullets, as well as background checks for all gun sales. His plan would lead to the most sweeping changes to national gun laws in a generation.

The National Rifle Association has come out in opposition, saying that the background check system that’s already in place isn’t working and that the assault weapons ban was ineffective when it was enacted from 1994 to 2004.

The debate has some gun owners concerned enough about supplies of ammunition and weapons that some stores say they can barely stock the ones that could be included in the bans.

It doesn’t matter which type of assault rifles he has in stock, Clepper said; they’re all selling quickly. Before Christmas, he said, he probably had 40 or 50 assault rifles in stock at the store. “By the time we got to Jan. 1 we’d sold out of just about every assault rifle and every ammo that goes with assault rifles, and that was a lot.”

Last week he had six at the shop, and he’s bringing in more every week to keep up with demand. He said he hasn’t raised prices on his assault rifles, although he has eliminated discounts he had in place. He says he’s running a neighborhood shop and he counts on his customers continuing to come back.

He feels there’s been a lot of confusion over what’s proposed and what actions have already taken place.

“It’s all over the place. There’s a lot of misinformation out there which I try not to perpetuate. I have customers that come in swearing that they’ve already been banned, and from that side to people who believe like most politicians (the ones talking about gun control) won’t do much of anything.”

At Sevierville Indoor Range they don’t focus on selling as many assault rifles, and the facilities aren’t set up for firing them. The customers tend to be more focused on handguns as a result, and owner Wayne Johnson said his customers were probably a little less anxious over the debate because of that.

“I think they’re waiting to see what kind of legislation is going to come down,” he said.

Like some other area agencies and shops that offer handgun permit classes, he and his staff said they’ve seen an increase in attendance. Classes are filling up weeks in advance.

He’s seen a new demand for ammo, he said, and at times he’s had to turn away customers just looking to stock up so he could make sure he had supplies for people who wanted to use the range.

Joe and Jennifer Reeping were among the customers at the range last week; they were celebrating Jennifer’s birthday. They both said they were not that concerned about the prospect of new gun control laws because they own and enjoy shooting handguns, which don’t appear to be targeted by Obama.

“We don’t own (assault rifles) and I don’t foresee us using them,” Joe said.

The handguns they were firing included a .22-caliber pistol passed down from Jennifer’s great-grandfather.

“We’re shooting a gun she got from her great-grandfather and that we’ll eventually give to our son,” he said. “I just think thats neat.”

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com