Election triggers gun sales

  • Many have noticed a sizable increase in sales of guns and ammunition in Wisconsin since the November elections.
  • Many gun owners are concerned that the Obama administration will increase gun control laws or place bans on ownership.
  • Others say this concern is ill-founded and that propaganda has distorted Obama's positions on gun control.

There is a fever right now in sales of guns and ammunition in Wisconsin, said Rick Sommerfelt, president of Daniel Boone Conservation League. The Richfield, Wis. league is a members-only club dedicated to preserving natural resources and promoting shooting sports.

"Everybody is scared that their gun rights will be taken away," Sommerfelt said. "People are afraid of the unknown, and they don't know where gun control laws are going to turn."

Sommerfelt said many gun owners worry President-elect Barack Obama will not look at the Second Amendment in the same way they do.

Sommerfelt said he has the moral choice of carrying a gun. He said he holds human life very sacred and would like to have a reasonable chance at fighting back if he were in a dangerous situation.

"If people would just be reasonable on both sides, this problem would be much easier," Sommerfelt said. "Guns are not awful things when used correctly."

Sommerfelt said current Wisconsin gun control laws do not permit carrying a concealed firearm. However, he said the majority of the rest of the states have concealed carry rights.

The minimum requirements for purchasing a handgun in Wisconsin are completion of a background check, completion of forms declaring that the buyer of the gun is also the user of the gun and the completion of other state forms, Sommerfelt said.

Bill Cosh, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said in an e-mail that between Nov. 1 and Nov. 16, 2007, the DOJ received 1,759 calls requesting background checks for the purpose of purchasing firearms.

Comparatively, he said, the same dates in 2008 yielded 3,250 calls for the same purpose.

Stories are circulating around the country about the increase in sales of firearms, said Doug Pennington, assistant director of communications for the Brady Campaign, a national grassroots organization for the prevention of gun violence.

"Solid statistics of gun sales just don't exist," Pennington said.

He said many combinations of statistics are used to infer that gun sales are increasing.

Pennington said that polls show that the majority of Americans support upholding the Second Amendment, but that they support gun control laws as well. He said it is possible to hold these ideas at the same time without being contradictory.

"Obama has actually said that he is in favor of the Second Amendment and of an individual's right to bear arms in his home," Pennington said. "But he has also said that he is in favor of gun control."

Pennington said many misconceptions were products of advertisements by groups like the National Rifle Association. He said that while the multimillion-dollar NRA campaign did not result in a Republican victory, it did effectively boost gun sales.

Pennington said these assertions distorted Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition.

"Sometimes, to a degree, advertising is going to work," Pennington said. "Even in a state like Wisconsin, some portion of the population represents long-time gun owners who receive NRA propaganda, and even a smaller portion of that population actually believes it."

Pennington said owning guns is a part of American culture and is a part of Wisconsin life. However, he said that does not mean anybody should be able to buy a gun without jumping through a few hoops.

"The top 10 states with the highest rates of gun death also have some of the weakest gun laws in the country," Pennington said. "Out of the 10 states with the lowest rates of gun death, seven have some of the strongest gun control laws in the country."

Pennington said we are no longer debating the thoughts of those who framed our Constitution, but what gun policies we want in the year 2008.

Wisconsin Gun Owners is a non-profit organization that focuses on education and legislation regarding gun control issues.

Corey Graff, executive director of WGO, said the organization has heard from its members that gun owners are very concerned about their rights under the Obama administration.

Graff said a similar increase in firearm sales occurred when the semi-automatic ban was anticipated to pass. According to the Brady Campaign's website, the semi-auto ban was enacted on Sept. 13, 1994. The ban prohibited the manufacture, importation and purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than ten rounds after the date of the ban's enactment.

Graff said people are trying to stay ahead of a ban, and collectors have a strong incentive to purchase firearms before they are banned, as prices will increase if a ban does occur.

"We don't believe that any gun control is reasonable," Graff said. "The Second Amendment is very clear as far as our right to bear arms."

Graff said gun control laws have done nothing to make the streets safer. He said every year 200 people are murdered in Wisconsin, and WGO argues that if those people had the right to bear concealed weapons, they may have been able to defend themselves.

"Disarming good, law-abiding people will just leave us defenseless," Graff said. "We need to take gun control laws off the books and restore freedom in order to get back to the idea of self-reliance."

Graff said, regardless of any advertisements, Obama's voting records and public comments have made his views clear. He said Obama has stated that the Second Amendment permits the passing of reasonable gun control laws.

"You can't have it both ways," Graff said. "Which is it? Is it that our rights shall be infringed to a certain extent, or that they shall not be infringed?"

Ed Mulrooney, owner of Ed's Gun and Range in Whitewater, Wis., said he has not noticed this increase in gun sales. He said firearm sales are actually down this year in the states that have less revenue.

"There is no way of knowing what will happen until it happens," Mulrooney said. "Yes, we're worried about gun control laws but I hope nothing happens."