Peabody's Sports owner John Thyne, right, shows a Rock River Arms AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to Tony Sickels of Springboro on Wednesday, January 16, at the Clearcreek Twp. gun shop. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart
Photo: Chris Stewart

Gun sales soar as debate rages

Gun sales have soared in Southwest Ohio in the wake of December’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school and related calls for tougher gun control laws, resulting in rising prices and rationing for many types of firearms, ammunition magazines and ammunition, experts and officials said.

Local guns sales started to climb in November after the re-election of President Barack Obama and then spiked in December after the slayings of 20 first-graders and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said Joe Eaton, Southwest Ohio chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a statewide political action committee.

“It was a feeding frenzy,” said John Thyne, owner of Peabody Sports LLC, a guns and ammunition dealer in Clearcreek Twp., Warren County. “As a result, most dealers in the area sold massive amounts of guns,” he said.

Last month, the number of federal government-instituted background checks processed in Ohio on potential gun owners totaled 102,531, up 64 percent from December 2011, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Retailers and law enforcement officials said Christmas gun sales might be the prime factor in December’s higher numbers, but some said the Sandy Hook shooting and possible changes in gun laws may have affected the numbers.

“We’ve absolutely seen an increase, especially over the past 15 days,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer. “Last January, we issued 120 permits. We’re at 206 already this January.”

Plummer said he believes the increase comes from people’s fear that the federal government will make changes to gun laws. “They are obviously going to change something,” he said.

President Obama on Wednesday announced a $500 million program aimed at curbing gun violence. In his speech, Obama said he wants a ban on military assault weapons and a limit of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and full-capacity ammunition magazines are in high demand at area gun dealers, Eaton said.

One dealer in Lebanon, Ohio, will be using a lottery system for sales of an upcoming shipment of semi-automatic rifles, according to Eaton. “That way he doesn’t have crowds waiting there for when the shipment arrives,” he said.

Firearms manufacturers, distributors and dealers are all short on inventory because of the high demand, resulting in higher prices and rationing, Thyne said.

“We are rationing ammunition, limiting it to two boxes per person per day because of the inability to get the supply,” Thyne said. “There are a number of dealers around town that have none.”

More than 400 people were waiting in line earlier this month to enter a gun show at the Sharonville Convention Center in Hamilton County, where many dealers sold out of their stock, Eaton said.

Gun dealers nationwide saw a similar jump in sales in November 2008 following Obama’s first election. As an Illinois senator, Obama supported gun control legislation. His re-election and calls for limiting ownership of some types of firearms and magazines is driving much of the current sales surge, Eaton said.

“Basically with the president signing executive orders, (he) has done more for gun sales and ammunition sales than any other president,” Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said.

Butler County has seen a steady increase in permits issued from 1,755 in 2010 to 2,116 last year, according to sheriff’s Lt. Morgan Dallman.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office has issued 90 permits in the first 15 days of the year, plus 17 renewals and 35 more being processed, according to Jin Stouffer, CCW administrator. Over the final three months of last year, the office issued 162 permits and 43 renewals.

Chief Deputy Dave Duchak of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office said his office has seen a “noticeable increase” in concealed carry permit applications since the Sandy Hook shootings.

His colleague in Greene County has seen the same. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase,” said Chief Deputy Mike Brown. “We had 30 applicants one day last week.”

Both Brown and Duchak said many of the applicants are from Montgomery and other adjoining counties. “Most of them don’t want to wait for their permit so they come here,” Brown said.

Warren County has seen no major increase in concealed-carry applications, partly because it processes them by appointment only — around 24 a week, said sheriff’s Lt. Jerry Mays.

“We’re booked up until May” for appointments, Mays said.

Plummer said he would like to see a the tightening of background checks and loosening of medical patient privacy laws so “we can know who shouldn’t have a weapon” because of mental health issues.

Gun dealers and advocates expect the strong sales and high demand for firearms to continue.

From 2008 through 2012, requests for background checks in Ohio on potential gun-buyers jumped 79.8 percent, the ninth largest percentage increase in the country.

Wisconsin had the nation’s highest percentage increase at 151.2 percent. Kentucky had the highest number of background checks in 2012 with 2,589,358 — more than 1.5 million more than No.2 Texas with 1,436,132.

Since the federal government instituted background checks for gun buyers in 1998, December has been the month for the greatest number number of such checks with exception of 2008. That year, November — when Obama was elected — outpaced December.

The Buckeye Firearms Association advocates for the rights of Ohioans to own firearms for self-defense, competition or collecting. The political group is affiliated with the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, a 501c-3 nonprofit educational charity organization that is offering free firearms training to Ohio teachers in the wake of Sandy Hook.

For a state-by-state look at the growth of background checks from 2008 to 2012, go to DaytonDailyNews.com.

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