Reply Wed 11 Nov, 2009 01:58 am

El Paso gun sales shoot up
Possible regulation, border violence help boost arms, ammo purchases
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 11/09/2009 12:00:00 AM MST

Strong nationwide gun and ammunition sales are helping El Paso gun dealers
buck the recession that is hurting other businesses.

"Certain items are practically impossible to get, including ammunition
for certain caliber guns," said Shane Cook, manager at the
Sportsman's Elite Hunting & Gun Pro Shop in West El Paso.
"The hottest items at the store have been the .380-caliber pistol,
which is our top seller, and the AR-15 style rifle.

"Ammunition has also been hard to get from suppliers. For example,
if we get a case in on Monday with 10 to 20 boxes, and each box
contains 50 rounds, by Friday it will all be gone."

At the El Paso Gun Exchange, which also sells firearms to law
enforcement, the surge in demand that began several months ago
has started to slow a bit for some products but not others.

"For the past six to seven months, we had a hard time trying to
stock the guns that use the .380-caliber ammunition and the
ammunition for them," said Jo Porter, co-owner of the gun store
in East-Central El Paso.

"The Glocks in all the calibers are our most popular pistols, and
the .22-caliber rifle is still popular with our customers," she said.
"Many people also still consider the 12-gauge shotgun to be a good
home-defense weapon."

The Olin Corp. reported a 19 percent increase in its Winchester
division, also in this year's third quarter, from $140.8 million last
year to $168.2 million this year. In a company statement, Olin
President and CEO Joseph D. Rupp said, "For the third consecutive quarter,
Winchester achieved the highest level of earnings in its history."

In Texas, the uptick in concealed gun licenses appears to correspond
with a rise in purchases of small handguns that can be carried easily
by gun owners, dealers said.

Last year, Texas had a total of 314,574 concealed gun licenses
on file for the state, compared with 288,909 in 2007.

Although a breakdown of existing gun licenses by county was not
available, more than 500 El Pasoans submitted new applications
in the past year to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Sun City Guns in East El Paso had reported a 30 percent increase
in sales when the surge began late last year, which coincided
with the presidential election.

"There is a significant demand for guns, ammunition and reloading parts,"
said John Hubert, a firearms consultant for Sun City Guns.
"This all started in November of last year. The only kind of .380
ammunition I can get right now is the expensive kind, which costs
around $34 a box.

He said members of the military like to buy rifles that look like
the AR-15 and the AK-47, and every day someone comes in to ask
about the more traditional 12-gauge shotgun.

The amount of excise taxes collected from gun and ammunition
manufacturers -- another indicator of growth in the industry --
also increased considerably. Collections reached $109.8 million
in the first three months of this year, a 43 percent increase over
the same period of 2008, according to the National Shooting
Sports Foundation.

The foundation is a trade association for the shooting, hunting and
firearms industry based in Newton, Conn.

Another gauge of growth was FBI background checks for gun purchases.
They totaled 1,093,230 in September, a 12.4 percent increase
over the same month last year.

Federal government statistics cited by the National Rifle Association
show more than 250 million privately owned firearms in the United States.
This number rises by about 4.5 million each year.

The total U.S. population is about 307.8 million.

El Paso gun dealers said concerns about possible new gun controls
under the Obama administration propelled people to stock up on guns and bullets.

However, other concerns, such as violence across the border and
uncertainty during a recession, prompted others to purchase weapons.

Porter said Fort Bliss soldiers who receive orders to serve overseas
buy guns for spouses to use for self-defense while they are gone.

Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he is
interested in reviving the ban on assault weapon purchases,
President Obama has told audiences he does not plan to take
away their guns. The federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004.

The matter of gun control continues to divide public opinion.

For example, El Pasoans Michael Navarro, 25, and Matias Tarango,
19, stand on opposite sides of the issue.

"I have fired guns but I don't own any. However, I have relatives
who own guns and who are in law enforcement," Navarro said.
"I am against further gun controls. The United States was founded
on the idea that we should be able to defend ourselves. If we are
not taking up arms to defend ourselves against aggressors, then
we're defending someone else who needs our help."

Tarango said he is anti-gun and hopes the federal government
revives the ban on assault weapons.

"I don't think anybody should be able to buy a gun," Tarango
said. "The only ones who should have guns are people in law
enforcement. But even then, if no one is armed, then no one
would ever get killed by a gun."

Gun trends
Concealed gun licenses, excise tax figures and FBI background checks
indicate the demand for guns and ammunition continue to be strong.

Here are some highlights:

Texas concealed gun licenses (statewide): 314,574 in 2008; 288,909 in 2007.

Excise tax collections from gun and ammunition makers (national figure):
$109.8 million in the first quarter of 2009; up 43 percent over
the same quarter in 2008.

FBI background checks for gun purchases (national figure):
1,093,230 in September 2009; a 12.4 percent increase over
the same month in 2008.
Sources: Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Treasury
Department, National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., a trade association
based in Newton, Conn., reported significant increases in sales
this year for U.S. gun manufacturers. For example, Sturm, Ruger & Co.,
saw a 70 percent rise in sales

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