The demand for firearms and ammunition has skyrocketed in recent weeks making it hard for stores to keep inventories stocked.
"I've never seen anything like it. Not in my 40 years of being in business," said Phillip Adcock, owner of Belk Grocery and Sporting Goods, who spoke with WJLE Tuesday morning. " They (customers) have overwhelmed us. I thought I was prepared for it. I'm being allocated on basically everything. We don't order now. They (manufacturers) call us and tell us what they've got and when they do you had better buy it," he said.
President Barack Obama last week called for a new and stronger assault weapons ban as well as a 10 round cap on magazines and universal background checks. The move comes in the wake of the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut which has renewed interest by some in seeking a stricter crackdown on weapons that do the most damage.
But many gun owners, fearing that legislation may go too far, are stocking up leaving retailers trying to keep up with the high demand. "We've had a mad dash for the last six or seven weeks," said Adcock. "There are probably three reasons for it. We had an anti-gun President re-elected. We had a shooting (Newtown, Connecticut) and we had Christmas all rolled into a close proximity of time. I think it just overwhelmed the market. Everybody sort of panicked. I guess due to the Christmas break the manufacturers just got overwhelmed. Its going to take a while for them to catch up," he said
Usually, customers are in the hunt for handguns this time of year, according to Adcock. But this year, they're looking for more. "I think because people are a little bit concerned because they might not be able to buy something a little later we're trying to find a lot of long guns right now for people. They are difficult to find as well. Normally in January and February people go back to handguns pretty strong but it seems like this year its just a combination of all of it. Availability of anything right now is really scarce. Even stuff that you would think normally is easy to get is real difficult right now. Its just not out there," he said.
Still, the requests for orders keep coming, even for the so called "assault rifles". "I've got a list right there by the phone. I've actually got so many requests right now we've quit writing down names and phone numbers. Probably for a week there we had one full time person answering the phone for requests for AR-15's simply because they (customers) were afraid they would not be able to get them after the (Connecticut) shooting. That demand is really overwhelming as much as anything else. If you could get a truck load today you could probably have them sold in a week's time," said Adcock.
Although prices have not really increased that much, Adcock fears some gun retailers may be taking advantage of the high demand. "There's always usually a small price increase the first of the year but a lot of the prices people are seeing now are being raised intentionally. We're seeing a lot of exaggerated prices out there. People have even put their own personal guns on the Internet and doubled the prices. They are selling just as fast as they can put them on there. Really people need to settle down because hopefully it will level off in a few weeks and we'll go back to normal," he said.
Adcock is also convinced that the voting public will hold Congress accountable on whatever gun control measures are considered. "Its still up in the air what they're going to do in Washington over this deal. We've got Congressmen and Senators that's got to come back home and be re-elected by the people. If people get the chance to speak they'll show their support for gun rights and the second amendment and what it all means. We may have a little up and down the next four years but we'll get through that and something better will happen," said Adcock.
Tracy Caplinger of L&C Sporting Goods, who is also an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor told WJLE Tuesday that the interest among people wanting to obtain a handgun carry permit has also dramatically increased. "Gun classes are really up right now. People are really wanting to get their gun permits. I'm booked for several weeks in a row right now. Its gone from one to two a month to probably up to seven classes a month. That's as high as it's ever been since I've been teaching," said Caplinger.
And like other retailers, Caplinger said L&C Sporting Goods has found guns and ammo hard to come by recently. "Everything is really hard to get right now. When it comes in its going right out. We've been here twenty years and this is by far the busiest we've ever been. Its just crazy right now. If it has anything to do with a gun they're looking for it. Pistols, long guns, ammunition, you name it. I'm getting several calls a day. You really can't find any of it right now anyway. There's a lot of talk right now (about what the government might do). Everybody is scared and buying anything they can get their hands on. I really think it will slow down before too long. If all these shootings will slow down I think it will level back out," said Caplinger.