Sales of semi-automatic weapons, ammunition magazines capable of holding up to 30 bullets and all kinds of ammo have been brisk this week, several York County gun shop owners say.
Last weeks killings of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has increased sales, but owners said their business had been steady since the Nov. 6 national elections with people fearing the federal government will reinstitute a ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.
People want to protect themselves, said Darren Nichols, owner of Nichols Store in Rock Hill. There are a lot of scared people out there.
People in Washington want to use every option to restrict what we can do, what we can buy, said Tom Nalley, one of the owners of the Aim Right Gun Shop in Fort Mill.
Chris Munro, owner of the Fort Mill Gun Shop, said 90 percent of his customers are worried about losing their right to bear the arms they want.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he supports banning assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force that will make recommendations to stop an epidemic of gun violence.
The president has promised to act swiftly on Bidens recommendations. Republicans in Congress have historically opposed banning assault weapons. Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., has pledged to listen and carefully review suggestions made by Bidens task force.
York County gun shop owners said inventory of AR-15s and AK-47s sold out by Wednesday and that their suppliers could not meet demand for weapons.
Certain types of AR-15s and AK-47s were banned by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which Congress passed in 1994. The law expired in 2004. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has promised to reintroduce the ban when Congress convenes in 2013.
Fully automatic AR-15s and AK-47s have been used by military forces worldwide.
Customers buying the semi-automatic AR-15s and AK-47s locally paid prices ranging from $600 to more than $1,000, shop owners said. A Norinco, a Chinese made AK-47 considered to be a high quality weapon, commanded prices of $1,500, Munro said.
The larger capacity ammunition clips sold for about $5 before the Connecticut shooting but increased to $15 to $20, Munro said.
Jane Turney, owner of the Outdoor Store in York, said it had been a slow year before the election, but crazy since then. The store advertises it can custom build the AR-15, which Turney characterized as a protection rifle.
If the store has the parts, it can assemble an AR-15 in about an hour, she said.
Talley said the AR-15 also can be used as a hunting rifle. Its .223 and 5.56 rounds wont stop a deer, but are good choices when hunting small game or coyotes, Talley said.
Prices for Glock and Smith & Wesson pistols ranged from $300 to $500, depending on the weapon, shop owners said. Most customers were looking for pistols that could be concealed, or used as a home protection weapon.
Shop owners also said there has been a steady increase in people taking concealed weapon and gun familiarization classes since the election.
Nichols also said he has been selling more firearm safes. His store has a variety of safes to secure weapons, including some designed to look like old bank vaults. Overall, Nichols said sales at his store have been slightly higher, but not has high as other places because his store has a reputation for hunting, not tactical sales.
Gun store owners also reported it has taken them longer to complete background checks through the federal database. Sometimes they had been told to call back because of the numbers of calls to the database. Other times they have to wait as long as 45 minutes.
Turney said she has been told to hold weapons for the allowed three days so background checks can be completed.
They dont tell us the reason, but there has been more three-day delays since the election, she said.