Gun sales rise, stay steady following election
April 6, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
Customers pack West Coast Armory every day for new handguns and rifles, and to stock up on ammunition. Forget the down economy and sluggish consumer spending: Gun sales nationwide are booming.
Sales at the Northwest Gilman Boulevard store are three and four times higher than they were in the months before the presidential election.
“Ever since the election, my store is like this every time you walk in,” store manager Steve Roberts said.
The store even hired more employees to handle the upswing in customers. If West Coast Armory could sell every item on its lengthy waiting list in a single day, Roberts said the haul would be equivalent to an entire month.
Sales spiked after the Nov. 4 election of President Obama. Democrats also strengthened their majorities in both houses of Congress last November.
“We literally started doing a week’s business — or more — every day starting then,” Roberts said.
His definition of a good day changed, too. A busy day before the election is less so nowadays.
“Now, that’s a slow day,” Roberts said. “That’s a real slow day.”
Licenses for concealed pistols are also up, though Roberts attributes that to the increased traffic at the store.
The election stoked fears among gun-rights advocates about a possible revival of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and new restrictions on other types of guns.
President Bill Clinton signed the ban in 1994. The ban prohibited the sale of 19 types of semi-automatic military-style guns, like AK-47s and AR-15s, and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds. The decadelong ban expired five years ago. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced the administration would seek to revive the ban.
Roberts predicted the sales surge would “continue as long as the Democrats are in power.”
Other gun-rights advocates and gun owners are concerned about the possibility of new taxes on gun sales. The weak economy also drives sales, Roberts said.
The rush on guns concerned gun control advocates, who said the sales surge took place in the absence of federal firearms legislation.
“I see no movement at the federal level in any way, shape or form to touch the gun issue,” Kristen Comer said, the executive director of Washington CeaseFire, a Seattle-based group that works to reduce gun violence.
Comer said she doubts voters would support a ban on handguns, and she wants to see more thorough background checks for gun buyers and increased education for gun owners.
Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said his department is processing more paperwork related to gun sales and concealed pistols licenses. But privacy considerations prevent the department from tracking information about the sales, he said.
“Once we get the information, we check it and then destroy it,” he said.
Sgt. John Urquhart, King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said his agency was handling more paperwork related to gun sales, but could not provide a specific figure.
Andrew Alaniz, of Duvall, stopped by West Coast Armory last week to check out ammunition. Alaniz, who served in the Army, worried about restrictions lawmakers might place on certain varieties of ammunition.
Roberts said first-time gun owners also fueled the increase in sales: “We see people come in who have never owned guns before.”
Though demand has far outstripped supply, Roberts said he kept his prices steady.
“Barring sweeping government legislation, our future looks pretty bright,” he said.
Joe’s Sports, Outdoor & More on Northwest Gilman Boulevard is the closest competitor to West Coast Armory. Joe’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early March. A spokeswoman for the regional chain could not be reached for comment.
After the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, Heidi Yewman joined Million Mom March, part of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Yewman, of Vancouver, serves as the state president for the Million Mom March chapters. She just released a book, “Beyond the Bullet,” about people who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Yewman, who said her goal is to “stop dangerous people from getting dangerous guns,” said the sales surge is based on paranoia.
At the Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club gun range, range master Lori Laughren said more shooters seemed to be using the range. Though she said the increase could be the result of the economy, with unemployed people stopping by the range on weekdays. Laughren said new gun owners should receive proper training for using their firearms.
“Any tool is only as dangerous as the intent of the user,” she said.
Requirements for a concealed pistol license:
Be at least 21 years old at time of application.
Be a United States citizen or have an alien firearms license.
Have no pending trial, appeal or sentencing on a charge that would prohibit you from having a license.
Have no outstanding warrants for any charge from any court.
Have no court order or injunction against possessing a firearm.
Have no mental health conditions that would prohibit you from having a license.
Have no felony convictions.
Read a complete list of requirements at www.dol.wa.gov/business/firearms.
Issaquah residents can apply for a new license at:
Issaquah Police Department
130 E. Sunset Way
9-10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Renewals are accepted from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Residents of unincorporated King County can apply for a concealed pistol license at:
King County Courthouse
516 Third Ave., Seattle
8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays
Due to King County Sheriff’s Office staff reductions, Precinct No. 3, 22300 S.E. 231 St. in Maple Valley, no longer accepts new concealed pistol applications.
Residents who need to renew or replace their license can go to the courthouse or Precinct No. 3. License holders who only need a renewal may go to the Blackriver Community Service Center, 919 S.W. Grady Way, Renton.
Precinct No. 3 or Blackriver employees may direct license holders to Seattle, depending on how many employees are available.
No appointment is necessary at Precinct No. 3. License holders must schedule an appointment at Blackriver.
Learn more at
www.kingcounty.gov/safety/sheriff/ services. Follow the link for “Concealed Weapons Permits.”