Howard Witt, Chicago Tribune, November 12, 2008
A week after the election of Barack Obama, gun buyers across the country are voting with their feet, flocking to gun stores to stock up on assault rifles, handguns and ammunition.
Some say they are worried that the incoming Obama administration will attempt to reimpose the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Others fear the loss of their right to own handguns. A few say they are preparing to protect themselves in the event of a race war.
But whatever the reason, gun dealers in red and blue states alike say they’ve never seen anything like the run on weaponry they’ve been experiencing since Election Day—surpassing even the panic buying in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But anecdotal reports from around the nation suggest the sudden surge of November gun-buying is far surpassing the normal hunting-season spike that often occurs this time of year.
At the Memorial Shooting Center in Houston, which shares a building with a church, managers said they sold out of assault weapons a day after the election and are now adding new orders, at more than $1,000 each, to a monthlong waiting list. In Colorado, state authorities said they set a record for background checks on gun purchasers on the Saturday before the election—and the requests have been growing ever since.
And in Obama’s home state of Illinois, business at gun stores is brisk.
Obama’s record on gun rights is conflicting enough to give ammunition to either side.
His campaign Web site said he “respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms” and promised that he would “protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport and use guns.”
Seeking to reassure gun owners, Obama told a campaign audience in Ohio in October: “I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.”
But Obama also has said he favors “common sense” gun laws, and as an Illinois state legislator he voted to support a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and tighter restrictions on all firearms. He has said in the past that he opposes allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons.
And Obama’s controversial comment last April that some rural Americans “cling to guns or religion” in difficult times suggested to many gun owners that he was fundamentally hostile toward them.
The sum of those positions prompted the National Rifle Association to warn its members during the campaign that Obama “would be the most anti-gun president in American history.”
One expert sees a darker motive driving some post-election gun purchasers.
“Why are white people buying assault weapons?” said Ben Agger, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Arlington who wrote a book about the Virginia Tech slayings. “I almost hate to say it, but there is a deep-seated fear of the armed black man, because Obama now commands the military and other instruments of the justice system. They are afraid Obama will exact retribution for the very deep-seated legacy of slavery.”