By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
One product is flying off the shelves as Mahoning Valley retailers struggle through a recession — guns.
Gun enthusiasts have been flocking to gun stores and gun shows since Barack Obama of Illinois was elected president last month. Many think that restrictions on gun ownership will be approved shortly after he takes office in January.
“He’s making a lot of people nervous,” said Marlene Miller of Boardman’s Miller Rod & Gun, where sales are up 70 percent since late October.
Maynard Moore, owner of Austintown Sports Center, said high demand has created a shortage of some types of guns. His sales in November were double what they were a year earlier.
“The day after the election, panic set in,” Moore said.
Many gun owners are concerned that Obama will restore a weapons ban that was approved by President Bill Clinton and Congress in 1994. It remained in effect until President George W. Bush and Congress allowed it to expire in 2004.
Called the federal assault weapons ban, it stopped the commercial sale of semiautomatic guns that were classified as assault weapons and ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds.
Semiautomatic guns are those in which a new round is loaded as soon as a trigger is pressed.
Justin Baker of Columbiana bought a semiautomatic assault rifle shortly before the November election and was at a gun show at the Eastwood Expo Center in Niles earlier this month looking to make another purchase.
“Democrats are typically harsh on gun rights,” he said. “Yes, I’m absolutely worried, and that’s why I’m buying.”
Byron Mastriana, an exhibitor at the gun show, is concerned that much of his display would be placed off limits by a new ban. Included in his exhibit was a $12,000 Barrett M82 rifle used by military units around the world.
“I anticipate another assault weapons ban happening. Something like that could put me out of business,” the Poland resident said.
Kenny Graft, owner of Shooting Star in Springfield Township, said his store has seen increased sales but not only from concerns about a gun ban. He’s been seeing more first-time gun owners in recent weeks who say they are worried about the safety of their homes in a bad economy.
Miller said shoppers at her store have been buying a variety of guns in addition to semiautomatic weapons. Basic handguns and hunting guns also have been selling well.
“People are buying ammunition by the case. It’s amazing,” she said.
People normally buy two or three boxes of ammunition, but now they are buying cases, which hold 10 to 20 boxes.
She said she welcomes the additional sales but doesn’t like how they have come about. She said she’d rather have gun rights protected than cash registers ringing from scared customers.
“It’s good for business, but it’s a sad situation that we have been put in,” she said.
XCONTRIBUTOR: Correspondent Jordan Cohen