Since the Nov. 4 election, Mary Davies says her business has tripled.
The phone rings constantly and customers of the small South Tacoma gun shop have at times been backed up into the hallway, she said this week.
The boom Mary’s Pistols has been seeing has been reported all over the country as buyers stock up on handguns, assault rifles and high-capacity clips that they’re concerned might be banned by an Obama administration and a more heavily Democratic Congress.
No nationwide figures on post-election gun sales were available, but a look at local figures comparing fall 2007 to fall 2008 shows an uptick in some categories, bolstering the anecdotal evidence.
Pistol sales in Washington during August, September and October rose by 20 percent compared to last year, according to the state Department of Licensing. And the Washington State Patrol has seen a 43 percent jump in background checks the agency has conducted for concealed pistol licenses when comparing September, October and November of last year to this year – and that number is likely to go even higher because data were only available through Nov. 13 this year.
When a reporter visited Mary’s on Thursday afternoon, several customers were discussing how President-elect Barack Obama might want to tax ammunition.
Davies said business had been steady in the months leading up to the election and that the “summer doldrums” failed to materialize this year. But sales started jumping after the election, she said.
“It’s been quite nerve-wracking, actually,” Davies said. “It’s so much work. There are a lot of forms you have to fill out and hoops to jump through.”
A pistol purchase for example, requires a lengthy federal form, plus a state form, and has to be entered into a logbook.
“Guns are the most tightly controlled substance on the planet,” said her husband, Dan Davies.
The shop usually has 350 guns on display, but on Thursday Davies’ stock was down to 265.
Davies, who worked at her parents’ gun shop before opening her own store three years ago, is worried that new restrictions could put her out of business.
“I had customers come in with Obama T-shirts to get their guns before the laws change,” she said. “They say, ‘I like his economic policies.’ I tell them, ‘It may be your gun, but it’s my job.’”
Other local gun stores, such as Bull’s Eye, Welcher’s and Gun & Bow in Tacoma and Marksman Gun Shop in Puyallup either didn’t return calls seeking comment or declined to comment.
Obama’s record on gun rights is conflicting enough to give ammunition to either side, the Chicago Tribune reported. He sought to reassure gun owners during the campaign, promising he wasn’t going to take away citizens’ rifles, shotguns and handguns. But as an Illinois state legislator, he voted in favor of a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and tighter restrictions on all firearms. He has also opposed allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons.
His mention of guns during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention might signal it’s a high priority for him, Davies said.
“The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” Obama said in his Aug. 28 speech. But many gun owners see gun restrictions hampering the rights of law-abiding citizens while criminals would just continue to flout the laws.
Davies has had to tell some customers seeking military look-alike rifles that her distributors are sold out and that there’s a six- to eight-month wait from the factory.
“I tell them they can order it but they may not get it if they’re outlawed right when they get in,” she said. She said the only real difference between a U.S. military-style rifle that she was holding and a semi-automatic hunting rifle is how it looks.
The fact that Vice President-elect Joe Biden was an architect of an earlier assault rifle ban that has since expired only adds to Davies’ concerns. The ban made “evil-looking” weapons illegal.
“I don’t know how they call this evil,” she said holding up the rifle. “Every one of our soldiers has one of these.”
Ian Demsky: 253-597-8872
state GUN SALES, background CHECKS RISE
Here’s a look at some Washington figures that back up anecdotal evidence that gun sales are up this year from last year.
Concealed carry permit background checks
* Through Nov. 13
IAN DEMSKY; email@example.com The News Tribune