Guns, parts and ammunition are selling fast in Tacoma, with local gun shops seeing a crush of customers ever since President Obama mentioned an assault weapons ban last month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut.
"I've been in business 20 years and was scheduled to retire at the end of this month. Obama is my best salesman--he cleared out my inventory for me," said Tom Anderson, the owner of Rainier Guns at 10505 Bridgeport Way SW. "If I live to be 120 years old, I'll never forget those three days."
He's talking about the 20th, 21st and 22nd of December, directly following the Sandy Hook massacre and political press conferences on gun control. During those three days, Anderson said Rainier Guns customers went "absolutely crazy," and he completed 10 times the amount of transactions made in a normal month.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced he would ask Congress to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for anyone attempting to buy a gun, restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and limit magazines to seven bullets. He also said he would sign 23 executive orders to enhance background checks, give mental health professionals more options for reporting threats of violence, and providing additional funds to schools to hire resource officers.
Anderson said about 50 percent of the recent gun buyers at his shop are first-timers, buying military-grade assault weapons and pistols with high-magazine capacities.
"What is happening is exactly the opposite effect our politicians wanted. These first-time gun buyers who would never be in here otherwise are scared that it’s their last chance," said Anderson. "A lot of these people are buying guns prematurely. They haven't thought it out, so they don’t even know what they want or what to ask for."
Just getting through on the phone to a gun shop can be tough. Patch couldn't get through to the sales floor team at Marksman Gun Shop and Pistol Ring in Puyallup, after repeated calls on Thursday.
AAA Loans and Gun Shop at 12831 on Pacific Highway also reported being "slammed" since Sandy Hook, with a lot of new customers coming in, according to Scott, an AAA employee.
New and veteran gun owners alike are asking for handguns and home defense-style shotguns at Ace Pawn and Loan on S. Meridian in Puyallup, according to a sales associate.
Interestingly, many of the new gun owners walking through the doors of Bulls Eye Indoor Range LLC on Puyallup Ave. in Tacoma are women, said sales associate Gerome.
"They're looking for handguns, for personal protection," he said.
All the stores Patch contacted Thursday said they are either completely out of inventory or getting down to the bottom of their stock.
Indeed, national supplier Brownells, which bills itself as the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories, parts and gunsmithing tools, has this disclaimer at the top of its website: “Please note: Due to extreme order volumes, shipments may be delayed.”
Anderson, who lives in Orting, is ready to retire but has remained open because he's confident he can clear his existing inventory completely before Rainier Guns closes for good.
"Never did I think I would sell this much inventory before I quit," said Anderson."Literally, this media circus has driven people to buy guns who would normally never consider owning one."