Armed America: Behind a broadening run on guns
Firearms sales have their cycles, but types of buyers – and their motivations – have shifted.
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"There's just so many people that would never have knocked on our doors before that are now coming in," says Bob Roddy, a longtime clerk at Chuck's Firearms in Norcross, Ga., outside Atlanta. "There's a level of desperation which I don't ever recall seeing before."Skip to next paragraph
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It is not uncommon for gun and ammunition sales to cycle, sometimes dramatically. They spiked after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, for example. Mr. Clinton had promised more gun control, resulting in the 1994 assault weapons ban (which expired in 2004). Mr. Obama, for his part, hasn't made any overt gun- control gestures. To the contrary, he has expounded on his support for the Second Amendment. Even recent court decisions are in gun owners' favor: The Supreme Court upheld the right of homeowners to keep handguns for self-defense in the so-called Heller decision last year.
Yet gun owners see some worrying signs. One proposed bill in Congress would mandate microstamping on bullet cartridges in an attempt to help law enforcement officials more easily track bullets used in crimes. But it also has the potential to raise prices and outlaw home reloading shops. South of the border, the pitched narco-war battles, partly fueled by US-bought military-style weapons, has brought renewed calls for regulation from gun-control advocates.
The buying trend, however, is far deeper and more prolonged than any knee-jerk reaction to an election or potential legislation, experts say. Though liberals still favor gun control at far higher percentages than conservatives, Americans as a whole are edging in the direction of more gun rights, according to a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports, an independent polling firm in New Jersey.
A major piece of the shift is the perception among many Americans that crime is rising rapidly. Nearly a third of Americans surveyed in the Rasmussen poll say crime has increased in their neighborhoods, and 72 percent say it's very likely that crime will grow in the near-term.
The FBI reported in January that, nationwide, violent crime was down 3.5 percent in 2008, robberies were down 2.2 percent, and car thefts declined by 12.6 percent. Those statistics contrast with 2006, when robberies, for example, jumped by nearly 10 percent.