Election spurs gun sales elsewhere, Pagosa less than norm

Although national reports indicate gun sales are booming following Barack Obama’s successful presidential bid, local gun retailers say business is steady but not extraordinary.

“Sales are brisk, but sales have been brisk since August,” said J.P. Rappenecker, owner of Pagosa Springs’ The House of Muskets.

Rappenecker and Mike Haynes, owner of Eagle Mountain Mercantile, both said although inventory isn’t flying off the shelves, customers are showing a keen and renewed interest in firearms.

At Eagle Mountain Mercantile, Haynes said recent customers are leaning toward semi-automatic weapons because they fear those are the types of guns a liberal leaning government would go after first.

Similar sentiment emerged during the Clinton era when he pushed for legislation banning certain types of semi-automatic firearms and high capacity magazines.

“People are looking at semi-automatic rifles and handguns, but amazingly enough, people are looking at other kinds of guns too. We’ve sold all kinds of guns last week, not just so-called assault rifles. But there is definitely more interest in the semi-automatic types of guns.”

And Haynes’ assessment appears to mirror the national trend.

The buzz on blogs, Internet chat rooms and talk in gun stores across the nation, indicates many fear the Obama administration will squelch their right to bear arms, and they are, at least in Colorado, apparently, buying in record numbers now before it is too late.

According to Lance Clem, public information officer for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the state set records on two consecutive November weekends for the number of queries gun dealers submitted to the Insta-Check system for pre-purchase criminal background checks.

“A record was set last Saturday with 1,831 requests. That beats the prior record set the prior Saturday by 400. It’s been, well, think of every superlative you can think of,” Clem said. “We’ve never seen these numbers in the history of the program.”

The official CBI tally for Nov. 1 was 1,438, and Clem estimated the agency would likely conduct 10,000 pre-purchase background checks by month’s end.

Although Colorado is seeing unprecedented queries, Clem said the background check and buying surge is following a national trend.

“We’re hearing consistently that Insta-Checks or Brady checks are flooding other state agencies and the FBI as well,” Clem said.

And locally, Haynes and Rappenecker have felt the pressure.

“Typically there are 50 or 60 (in the queue), maybe 100 if it’s a Saturday close to a payday,” Rappenecker said. But on Saturday, “There were over 500 people trying to buy guns in the state of Colorado. I’ve never ever seen 500 in the queue.”

For Haynes, he said CBI wait times have been averaging 10 times longer than before the election, with about 10 times as many people in the purchasing queue. Haynes said a normal queue might have 15 to 25 people, but since the Nov. 4 election, wait times have surged.

“We had upwards of 300 people in the queue late last week,” Haynes said.

According to CBI statistics, as of September 2008, the average wait time for a telephone or Internet query was 8:48 seconds, but Clem said that number has grown to three and a half hours.

Although the current shopping spree may be fueled by a similar concern that harkens back to Clinton-era gun control legislation, the fuel for the recent wave of purchases may also be linked to a National Rifle Association propaganda campaign which sought to cast Obama as an imminent threat to gun rights in America

In fact, the NRA pledged $15 million of a $40 million campaign budget to convince voters of such. Called “Barack Obama’s 10-Point Plan to ‘Change’ the Second Amendment,” the flier and mailer campaign attempted to persuade voters that an Obama administration would ban the use of firearms for home self defense, pass federal legislation eliminating a citizen’s right to carry a firearm, would ban the manufacture sale and possession of handguns, close down 90 percent of the gun stores in America, ban rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting, increase federal taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent, restore voting rights for millions of criminals including those who have used a firearm to commit a crime, expand the Clinton-era semi-automatic ban to include millions more firearms, mandate a government issued license to purchase a firearm, and appoint judges who share his views on the second amendment.

NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam confirmed the NRA generated the mailer.

In a Web posting, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president for the NRA wrote, “Obama’s change means gun owners will be under siege like never before.”

But while national sales, and sales in major metropolitan areas may illuminate that many citizens share LaPierre’s “siege” mentality, slower local sales, said Haynes, may indicate Pagosa Country residents are woven from a slightly different cloth.

“We’re definitely seeing a renewed interest in guns and possibly buying extra ammunition, but I think, in our town and in Archuleta County, people are more self reliant, independent types who own guns and have a fair amount of ammunition in their gun cases anyway,” Haynes said.

james@pagosasun.com