INDIANAPOLIS –Greg Burge casually leans over one of the glass display cases lining his store, Beech Grove Firearms.
He stands in front of a half-empty gun rack and gives a quick run-down on business.
“It’s been a record 2012 and 2013 has begun with record sales,” he said. The sales increase “has been way more than a spike.”
Burge and Beech Grove Firearms aren’t the only ones seeing the friendly end of that spike.
At the Outdoorsman Sport Shop in Greenwood, gun department manager Doug Houshour and his staff take pride in having a loyal customer base. Houshour knows most buyers personally and says the sales surge is all in the politics.
“Sales have definitely grown with the reelection (of President Barack Obama) and then the shooting soon thereafter. All the talk about gun control and the measures have really spurred sales,” Houshour says.
The incident Houshour refers to is the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. On that day, 20 children and six adults died at the hands of a lone gunman.
The tragedy at Newtown garnered the attention of the nation. Coming just a month after the reelection of the Obama administration, it also renewed a debate on gun control in the United States that had largely languished.
In 1994, then-Democratic President Bill Clinton signed into law a federal assault weapons ban as part of a larger crime bill. It prohibited the manufacturing and use of some semi-automatic “assault weapons”.
The ban expired in 2004 and has not been renewed since – although Obama has proposed a new law. The effect on the gun market has been easy to spot.
According to FBI statistics, the number of background checks through the first three months of 2013 was roughly at 7 million – a number that’s on pace to easily exceed the 2012 total of 19.6 million.
Gun dealers say the wave of new customers comes from the threat of change – even though none has actually been imposed.
Tom Freije, chief executive officer of Freije & Freije Auctioneers in Clayton, credits the threat of reform for a renewed 2nd Amendment appreciation among gun owners.
“I think that the government’s prepotency of this firearm’s control has made people a lot more aware of their own mortality and protectiveness that they don’t have,” says Freije.
Alli Fetter-Harrot, a professor of political science at Franklin College, touches on many Constitutional issues in the classroom. As of late, the 2nd Amendment and gun control has been a hot button topic.
She acknowledges that there remain questions about the wording of the 2nd Amendment, which protects gun ownership.
“The court told us in 2007, in the D.C. vs. Heller case, that the 2nd Amendment provides individuals a right to bear arms beyond militia service,” Fetter-Harrot said. “But there’s still a lot that we don’t know about what the 2nd Amendment means.”
She said U.S. Citizens will “hold tightly to the range of fundamental rights that are recognized by the Constitution.”
That has gun sales up. Burge said his customers are concerned about personal safety.
“The vast majority of gun owners and responsible Americans realize that the only way you stop the bad man – with the baseball bat, the gun, or the knife – is with greater force. Or equal force at the minimum,” he said.
The Outdoorsman is usually known for its hunting sales. But Houshour said that “right now personal defense is up to about the same sales as hunting.”
“Typically we would be at about an 85/15 split favoring hunting,” he said. “We have more of that stuff on our shelves now because our customers want it.”
But the high demand for guns is creating a kind of domino effect. Keeping firearms in stock is a test.
Freije acknowledges his good sales, but notes that a scarcity of ammunition is a problem.
“Ammunition right now is very scarce so ammunition prices are up,” he said.
The Outdoorsman has even imposed a “bullet cap.”
“We’ve had to limit, which I don’t like to do that,” said Houshour. But he said the store is trying to “spread it around to let everyone have some. We’ve been limiting to one or two boxes for each customer.”
And Houshour said the store’s staff “on the phone and computers constantly with sales reps and wholesalers” trying to find guns and ammunition to sell.
Whether the hot sales will continue is unknown. Burge said that at this point, he is a little worried.
“In about a year from now,” he said, “I think it’s really going to be interesting.”
Dexter Howard is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.