Local gun sales up following Connecticut shooting
It’s not unusual to see a large group of people hanging around Cheyenne’s Corner, a hunting and fishing supply store in Waynesville.
But during the past month, the store has been particularly busy.
Storeowner Cheyenne Keener said business has kept him on his toes this holiday season, especially in the days following the tragedy in Connecticut, when gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 elementary school children and seven adults, including his mother. Nancy Lanza was his first victim, and his last act was ending his own life. The tragedy sparked a nationwide discussion on guns.
At Cheyenne’s Corner, the back wall typically lined with guns was beginning to dwindle less than a week before Christmas. Although business always picks up significantly during the holidays, Keener said he has been inundated with calls and customers.
Keener said he typically carries pistols and long rifles at his store, most often used by hunters or people who simply want a weapon for safety reasons.
But there are a number of people who do purchase AR style weapons either for recreational target shooting or for hunting coyote or other varmints, Keener said.
Although he doesn’t keep them in stock on a regular basis, he said he orders AR-15 style guns upon request.
The AR-15 is a lightweight magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle. It’s the same weapon used in the Connecticut shootings in December and the Colorado movie theatre shooting that killed 12.
But, currently, one might be hard pressed to get their hands on one.
“Right now, trying to find an AR is crazy. It’s next to impossible,” Keener said.
Cecil Brown, owner of Hazelwood Gun and Tactical, has seen similar trends following the shooting.
Out of the nine years he’s been selling guns at the family-operated store, he said this is the busiest month he’s ever seen.
The most popular items in his store are handguns, tactical guns and ammo.
Currently, Brown doesn’t have any AR style guns in stock, but he is trying his best to keep up with the high demand. Even with about 15 suppliers from across the country, it’s difficult to find the guns.
“If I had the product, I could sell it. The only thing is distributors don’t have the product,” he said.
But when he does get them in stock, they fly off the shelves within hours, he said.
Brown has inventory coming in almost daily and he operates his store on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There is no agency that keeps up with gun sales, but the Haywood County Sheriff's Office has issued 24 new concealed weapon permits in December and 17 renewals.
There was a total of 653 new permits, 216 more permits than were issued in 2011.
Nationally, the FBI 16 million background checks for firearms purchases in 2012, almost doubling since 2008.
Keener said he’s also noticed a sharp increase in ammunition sales.
“A lot of people want to stock up on ammo while it’s available because it’s a hobby — it’s recreational for people,” Keener said.
And with President Obama promising “meaningful action” following the tragic Connecticut shooting, some fear legislation is on the way that will limit access to guns and ammo.
“People are just saying they want to get it while they can,” he said.
Brown has heard the same thing from many of his customers.
"About all it took was Obama saying he wanted to make legislation on gun control," Brown said.
Many people have misconceptions when it comes to “assault” guns, said Mark Rogers, an avid hunter.
Assault rifles such as a 30-06 could be even more powerful than the Bushmaster XM-15 .223 caliber rifle used in the Connecticut shooting, he said.
“An assault rifle still works the same way. It’s a semi-automatic gun and hunters have been using them since 1908,” Rogers said, adding that extended magazine clips can be added to those guns as well.
In Haywood County, though, Brown says most people are accepting of gun use because of the popularity of hunting in the area.
"Being safe is the biggest thing to remember," Brown said.