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Election of Obama causes gun sales to soar

It's not the Christmas rush that's causing gun and ammunition dealers across Central and Eastern Kentucky — like their counterparts across the nation — to run out of stock and see sales doubling.

Rather, gun shop owners from Lexington, Frankfort and Hazard say the surge is a result of customers thinking that President-elect Barack Obama will reinstate a 1994 federal assault weapons ban or push for other gun restrictions.

"They are afraid that Obama will put the Clinton ban back on," said Michael Campbell, who saw his sales figures at J.T.'s Gun and Pawn Shop in Hazard increase from $15,000 in November 2007 to $50,000 last month. "It's crazy. Instead of selling one box of ammunition, we are selling a case."

Limits were placed on high-capacity handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons under the presidency of Bill Clinton. The assault weapons ban became law in 1994. When it expired in 2004, President George W. Bush did not reintroduce it.

Nationally, the FBI is reporting that criminal background checks required to purchase a gun were up 41 percent for Nov. 1-23 compared with the same period last year, and up 49 percent the week that Obama was elected.

The rise in firearm purchases since the election prompted the president-elect to reassure gun owners during a press conference a week ago that he won't take away their weapons.

"I believe in common-sense gun safety laws and I believe in the Second Amendment," Obama said. "And so lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven't indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word."

Ashley Varner, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said that gun owners remain unconvinced.

"Gun owners across America have taken a look not just at President-elect Obama's campaign year rhetoric, but his votes, positions and statements made during his tenure as an Illinois state senator and U.S. Senator," Varner said Friday.

Jason Gilbert, an owner of Gilbert's Gun Shop in Frankfort, said that customers have mentioned their perception of Obama's stance as they buy up weapons.

"They can very clearly look at his voting record and see that he doesn't support the Second Amendment," said Gilbert.

Jay Evans, owner of Evans Firearms and Archery in Lexington, holds classes for people applying for a concealed deadly weapon permit at his store on Southland Drive. Evans said that 25 percent more people are taking the class than before the election.

"They are wondering if the availability of guns is going to be restricted in the future," Evans said.

But some gun dealers think other factors could be at play.

Joe Neikirk said that Paul's Discount, the Somerset store where he is a partner, had a 113 percent increase in gun sales this November over November 2007. Like other dealers, he said the demand, which is continuing this month, goes beyond the typical Christmas shopping increase.

Neikirk said that although the election accounts for the November numbers, customers have been buying more guns since January 2008.

"There's the election factor and the safety factor," Neikirk said. "With the meth labs, home invasions, and robberies, people just don't feel safe."