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30 Mar, 2009 09:55

Industry booms as concerned owners hoard arms in US

Fear of new regulations has driven gun owners to stockpile weapons and ammunition at such a high rate that manufacturures are having trouble meeting demand.

There is growing concern that the Obama administration could reimpose a ban on some semiautomatic weapons, which is causing an unmaintainable level of demand for ammunition and other components for weapons.

Currently, 25 percent of adult Americans own a gun, according to official statistics. The unofficial number could be much higher.

"We have heard from all across the country that there is a tremendous shortage of ammunition," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "We've heard this from the manufacturers, that their customers are calling them trying to get supplies for inventory, and that the manufacturers are going full-bore."

Keane said that the rate of sales of semi-automatics is so great that the year's production by manufacturers had already been spoken for.

Many people fear that their right to own firearms will either be heavily taxed or taken away altogether by the new administration. Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested that Obama favors reimposing the US ban on assault weapons which was first signed by President Clinton but allowed to expire under the Bush administration.

"After the election, where you have a change in parties to a more liberal side, I would say I guess the conservatives want to protect what they feel might be taken away from them," said store owner Jere Jordan.

Like many other gun stores, his has already run out of common ammunition and many other types are already on backorder.

Store owner Becky Holtz in Wyoming said that semi-automatic rifles are flying off the shelves.

"You know there's something wrong when I've got little old ladies coming in buying 5,000 rounds of .22 shells," she said.

Keane, from the Shooting Sports Foundation, said that aside from possible new federal regulations, the economic crisis and potential side-effect of increased crime is also driving people to the gun store.

"There's a concern about what's happening to the stock market, what's happening with unemployment, what's happening with the tremendous increase in government spending, whether there will be hyperinflation," Keane said.

While there are no national statistics that directly track firearms sales, there has been a sharp spike in the number of instant FBI backround checks.

From November 2008 through this past January, there were more than 4.2 million backround checks, which is an increase of more than 31 percent from the 3.2 million that the agency did from November 2007 through January 2008.