COMMENTARY: The ATF Fast and Furious scheme allowed thousands of guns to “walk” to the Mexican drug cartels.
Was it our gun laws that allowed this to happen? No.
It happened because ATF overruled its own agents who didn’t want the guns to “walk” and it overruled concerned gun shop owners who reported questionable gun sales to what looked to them like “straw” buyers.
So what is the “solution”: mandatory reporting of gun sales. Was that the whole point of ATF’s Fast and Furious? Seems likely.
Guns in Arizona: Sales at record pace
by Max Jarman – Jul. 15, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Guns are selling at a record pace this year at sporting-goods stores and specialty shops in Arizona, creating millions of dollars in revenue for retailers.
The ability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, general apprehension and lingering concerns that the Obama administration could crack down on gun ownership are among the sales drivers.
In Arizona, it is likely that more than 200,000 new weapons will be put in buyers’ hands after background checks this year. That figure doesn’t include firearms purchased at gun shows and through private transactions. Such non-tracked sales are thought to account for 40 percent of all sales, adding about 150,000 guns purchased annually. The estimated sales total: about 350,000 guns per year.
Retailers report that demand for small handguns that can be concealed in a purse or briefcase has soared, while sales of rifles and shotguns have remained flat or declined.
Firearms are widely available at many major retailers in Arizona, including sporting-goods stores such as Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Big 5 Sporting Goods.
Firearms sales remain brisk to consumers across the nation, as well, and retailers make sure they are stocked up: Nationally, retailers buy more firearms than golf equipment.
The Maryland-based Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association reported that $2.8 billion worth of firearms was sold by manufacturers to sporting-goods retailers in 2010, eclipsing the $2.35 billion in golf equipment sold that year. Only fitness equipment generated more sales for equipment manufacturers, at $3.2 billion.
“Firearms traditionally have been one of the top three sellers at sporting-goods stores,” said Mike May, a spokesman for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
Sales to retailers from manufacturers have risen dramatically since 2007. And even with an 11 percent drop in revenue in 2010 compared with 2009, firearms sales at sporting-goods retailers are up more than 20 percent since 2007, May said.
In addition to major retailers and specialty gun shops, firearms are available at 200 pawnshops in the state. Many pawnshops sell new weapons in addition to firearms that have been pawned and never claimed.
The FBI reports that 123,043 people submitted themselves to background checks to purchase guns in Arizona through June. That puts the state on track to break the record of 215,379 background checks in 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office.
The federal government requires the background checks for guns purchased through dealers licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Although the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, application doesn’t reflect an actual purchase, less than 2 percent of the applicants are rejected, and it is seen as a reliable indicator of gun sales and consumer demand.
In June, the ATF reported there were 1,629 licensed dealers, manufacturers and collectors of firearms and ammunition in Arizona. That compares with 1,589 in January 2011 and 1,566 in June 2010.
In Massachusetts and Washington, two states with populations similar to Arizona’s, there were, respectively, 492 and 1,155 licensed dealers, manufacturers and collectors of firearms and ammunition.
Experts attribute the relatively large number of licensees in Arizona to the state’s strong gun culture and gun-friendly laws.
Most of the license holders are dealers. In Arizona, about 1,200 of the 1,629 licensees are buyers and sellers of firearms. They range from gun shops, sporting-goods retailers and pawnshops to individuals, primarily gun enthusiasts, who hold dealer licenses so they can buy directly from manufacturers.
Walmart, which stopped selling guns at most stores in 2006 because of weak sales, has recently restocked rifles and shotguns at 1,700 of its 3,800 stores, including many in Arizona.
Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardy attributed their return to customer demand.
“People depend on us for hunting and sporting goods, and we listened to the feedback and added them back,” she said.
The Walmart stores do not sell handguns.
“We carry sporting firearms only,” Hardy said.
Although background checks are required for guns purchased through licensed retailers, no such screening is needed for guns purchased at the more than 20 major gun shows held in Arizona each year or through private transactions among individuals.
Non-licensed sales, which are hard to track, are thought to represent about 40 percent of the approximately 20 million guns that are sold in the U.S. each year.
Aaron Merchant started selling guns out of his Ahwatukee Farmers Insurance agency but outgrew the space last year and opened Merchant Firearms in Ahwatukee Foothills. Merchant said he expected his business to gross $1.5 million this year.
The shop specializes in higher-end weapons.
“We don’t sell the cheap Saturday night specials that some stores do,” he said.
No permit needed
Firearms sales in Arizona get a boost from some of the nation’s most liberal gun-ownership laws, as well as general angst and lingering concerns about tougher national gun laws.
Arizona is one of only three states where a concealed weapon can be carried without a permit.
Last year, an Arizona law that required gun owners to have permits to carry concealed weapons was repealed, allowing people 21 and older to carry guns out of sight.
Arizona dealers note that demand continues to grow for small handguns that can be concealed in a purse or briefcase, although many believe that most people interested in carrying a concealed weapon already were doing so with a permit.
Andrew Molchan, president of the Professional Gun Retailers Association in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attributes the increase in gun sales to a number of factors, including general apprehension about the direction of the country, and worries that the Obama administration will tighten gun-control laws, and the fact that more states now allow people to carry concealed weapons, generally with a permit.
“General apprehension is good for gun sales,” he said, noting that sales tend to spike during recessions and times of political unrest.
One of the biggest drivers is fear of tighter gun-control laws. Besides the jumps in gun sales in 2008 and 2009 when Obama was elected and took office, there was a sizable jump in 1994 when President Bill Clinton banned assault weapons.
Sales soared in 2005 when it became legal again to buy semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic pistols with large ammunition magazines.
Tragic shooting incidents also can spike sales because of similar apprehension about the enactment of stricter gun laws.
Gun sales jumped after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999, and Molchan believes the Jan. 8 attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that left six people dead near Tucson could be driving some of the increased sales so far this year.
A slight uptick
Brittany Hightower, a saleswoman at Bear Mountain Sports in Mesa, noticed a slight increase in sales after the Tucson-area tragedy, as did Dave LaRue, owner of Legendary Guns of the West in Phoenix.
LaRue said he also saw an increase in high-capacity magazine sales after the Giffords shootings because people were worried they may be banned.
The magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition were banned with assault weapons in 1994 and became legal to own again when the ban expired in 2004.
The gunman used a Glock 19 pistol with 33-round magazines in the attacks.
COMMENT: Watch…there is going to be a big surge in buying semi-automatic rifles in the next few days.