Gun sales spike after presidential election
Madison – Tens of thousands of hunters, target shooters, and
other citizens throughout Wisconsin and across the nation are
buying rifles, shotguns, and handguns at a record pace.
The surge in sales began in late October – about the time most
polls were predicting Barack Obama would win the race for the White
House by a significant margin. Despite the sagging national
economy, gun sales have continued strong during the weeks following
Many of the buyers fear Obama and the new Democrat-controlled
Congress will attempt to restrict their rights to own a gun.
“Some people think that all pistols will become illegal, but
that won’t happen,” said Randy Boelkow, of Midwestern Shooters
Supply in Lomira. “They’re going to try to block something, though,
and it will be interesting to see what does happen.”
Calls to Wisconsin’s Handgun Hotline background check office
have increased 85 percent since the election.
During the first 16 days of November, 3,250 background checks
were requested from the state’s hotline compared with 1,759 during
the same period in 2007, said Department of Justice spokesman Bill
Boelkow also saw a spike in gun sales at his store in the days
immediately following Obama’s election, particularly sales of
tactical-style (AR-15) semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic
handguns with magazines holding more than 10 rounds of
“The AR-15s with collapsible stocks and the high-capacity
handguns were outlawed by the Brady Bill for several years,”
Boelkow said. “A lot of people were looking for the 30-round rifle
magazines and the 17-round handgun clips. I would say our sales in
that area went up 10 to 20 percent.”
Midwestern Shooters Supply carries tactical-style rifles, which
have generated the largest share of interest.
“But we’re also seeing a boost in sales of other pistols, like
the 1911s that aren’t high-capacity,” he said. “We’ve just seen a
lot more people come into the store.”
That additional traffic also has translated into increased sales
in other departments of the store. “Clothing sales were down a
little this fall, but most everything else was way up,” Boelkow
He also reported an increase in ammunition sales because many
fear the new president and Congress will attempt to impose higher
taxes designed to price ammo beyond the reach of many people.
“We’ve had guys come in looking for large quantities of
ammunition because they don’t think they’re going to be able to get
it anymore,” Boelkow said.
Larry Wipperfurth, of Wilderness Fish & Game in Sauk City,
also reported a jump in the sale of tactical rifles this fall.
“But this is a very small part of our business,” he said. “Some
of the increase is due to concern over bans that might come from
the new administration, but a lot of it lines up with the hunting
Pointing out the advantages of the tactical rifles for hunting,
he said, “We sell the Bushmaster target rifle in .223 to those who
hunt prairie dogs and other varmints – right out of the box, it’s
one of the most accurate rifles we sell.”
Wilderness Fish & Game doesn’t sell handguns.
“We stopped selling them eight or nine years ago because sales
were lagging and we replaced those inventory dollars with more
profitable items,” Wipperfurth said. “So far, we haven’t seen a big
rush to buy .45-caliber or 9 mm handgun ammo like some stores have
Wipperfurth also noted an increase in the sale of hunting and
other outdoor gear despite the slumping economy.
“Hunting is such a tradition in Wisconsin that people might be
sacrificing elsewhere,” he said.
Dan Gussert, owner of Olson Sales in Green Bay, has seen
business pick up. “It’s almost every semi-automatic weapon and some
types of ammunition.”
Skyrocketing Internet sales of firearms is also occurring.
“We’re seeing a big-time increase in traffic,” said Erik
Thompson, president of TGSCOM Inc., in Green Bay, which operates
gun sales web sites. “We had to install another server,” he said.
“It’s been pretty intense around here.”
Thompson said sales have surpassed his projections by 300
percent, and demand is outpacing supply. Thompson’s company runs
more than three-dozen web sites that sell tactical-style rifles,
handguns, and hunting firearms, along with other sporting
“The distributors are running low, the manufacturers are running
low,” he said. “It’s going to be tough pretty soon if this keeps
The story is much the same nationally. The National Shooting
Sports Foundation – the trade association for the firearms industry
– reports a 10- to 15-percent increase in firearms sales this
In California, pre-purchase background checks – a major
indicator of gun sales – spiked by 58 percent the week Obama was
elected, compared to the same period last year, according to the
state Department of Justice.
Similar buying surges have been reported in Colorado, Texas, and
Obama’s home state of Illinois. A distributor in Arizona reported
selling $1 million worth of tactical rifles in one week.
As a U.S. senator, Obama voted to leave gun-makers and dealers
open to lawsuits; and as an Illinois state legislator, he supported
a ban on semi-automatic rifles and tighter restrictions on all
Just days after the election, Obama’s web site stated he would
make permanent the expired “assault weapons” ban of 1994.
Also, one of Obama’s 63 questions for applicants who wish to
work for the federal government is: “Do you or any members of your
immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and
registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please
also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been
the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.”
“The increase in firearms sales was predictable,” said NSSF
Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane. “It’s
clear from President-elect Obama’s voting record, and the promises
that he continues to make, that gun control will be coming back to
the White House. Eloquent rhetoric notwithstanding, sportsmen, gun
owners, and prospective gun owners recognize this and are reacting