Gun dealers experience sales boom when Obama talks gun control

President Barack Obama’s efforts to curb gun violence actually help sales, according to two local gun dealers.

Other local gun shop owners and employees declined comment.

J and E Guns manager John Walters and Hunters Warehouse owner Tom Engle each said, like clockwork, they’ve had a spike in business in the lead-up to Tuesday’s executive orders on gun control by Obama.

“He’s been our best salesman for the last seven years,” Walters said. “The more he tries to take away or talk about gun control the more people come in.”

Business at J and E Guns picked up in part due to Christmas sales.

“I didn’t do a count yet, but December was one of the busiest months we’ve ever had,” Walters said. “It was definitely a bigger December than usual.”

Engle said fear pushes people to buy more guns and ammunition when the president talks about or takes action on gun control.

“I think that people are more afraid he might go to the deep end and take more than he actually has,” Engle said. “It’s the way he talks and makes statements about things like legislation on assault weapons and saying he was going to take measures. Statements like that really push people to buy more, and a lot of people will be on the edge of their seats Jan. 12 (during the president’s final State of the Union address).”

The build-up to Obama’s latest executive orders Tuesday caused a buying frenzy at Hunters Warehouse.

“It’s been really crazy since the middle of last month,” Engle said. “It was so busy the system was crashing.”

The first executive order concerns background checks.

“Each time this comes up we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying,” Obama said. “I reject that thinking. We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives made clear that dealers must have a license and conduct background checks regardless of venue. ATF also will finalize requirements on background checks for buyers “of some of the most dangerous weapons” through a trust, corporation or other legal entities.

The administration wants the FBI to process background checks 24/7, improve notification of local authorities for flagged buyers and add about 230 in staff for processing background checks.

“I think the background checks at gun shows, private sales and everywhere else is a good idea,” Engle said. “You should know who you’re selling to, definitely. Now, when someone talks about registration, no. That’s the first step toward confiscation.”

National responses to gun control often depend on the question posed.

A CNN December poll asked 1,018 people if they favored or opposed more gun control and resulted in 51 percent being opposed. Respondents identified as 29 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican and 47 percent independent or of a different party.

Another December poll by Quinnipiac University dug deeper with 1,140 registered voters, 33 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 36 percent independent or other. Every party, gender, educational and age demographic favored background checks on all gun sales by at least 84 percent.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said he supports expanding background checks to all commercial sales of firearms. He was also concerned about finding a bipartisan consensus.

“This president has a history of unilateral action ... without legal authority,” Toomey said.

The second executive order focused on enforcement.

The president’s fiscal year 2017 budget will include funding for about 200 more ATF agents to enforce gun laws. The ATF will also dedicate $4 million to improve the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network and establish the Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online sales.

Obama proposed in the third executive order $500 million to increase access to mental health care.

The administration, in the final executive order, directed the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to sponsor research for gun safety technology.

House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement saying the president has never respected the Second Amendment and that his actions amounted to intimidation that undermines liberty.

“I believe in the Second Amendment,” Obama said. “It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli