Ohioans are embracing their right to keep and bear arms in record numbers,
mirroring a national trend that means gun manufacturers are making huge
profits which may go higher if President Obama is re-elected.
Smith & Wesson reported record net sales of $136 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2013, up 48.3 percent from a year ago. The company recently raised its full-year sales forecast from between $485-$505 million to $530-$540 million because of consumer demand.
"We are under serving the market at this moment, we all know that, and that's a great opportunity going forward for us," Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney said during a recent conference call with analysts.
Sturm, Ruger and Co. reported it built one million firearms by Aug. 15 this year, a number it took nearly all of 2011 to achieve.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cabela's has two plans for its holiday gun sales -- one if Obama is re-elected and one if Republican challenger Mitt Romney is elected.
National and state experts say fear of Obama taking on gun-control issues in a second term fuels higher sales, more background checks and increased participation in gun safety courses.
"Since Obama has gotten elected, concealed carry's been huge," said Shannon Campbell of Campbell's Firearms Training and Gun Accessories in Miamisburg. "People ask me all the time, it's like, 'So, who you like? You like Obama? I say yeah, I love him. He's helped my business a lot."
Ohio is on pace to reach unprecedented numbers on issued conceal and carry permits and federal background checks. Through June, 35,022 new conceal carry licenses were approved. In all of 2011, the total was 49,828.
Nationally, 11.7 million National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks have been made through August. That's well above the 10.4 million at this time in 2011, which ended with 16.4 million checks, a record.
"I don't know what to attribute that to other than that it's something that we seem to go through every time there's elections going on," said Toby Hoover, Executive Director of the Ohio Coaliltion Against Gun Violence. "There's so much (internal) advertising and so much being put out there by the NRA people at the top as far as the fear of people taking their guns away."
Hoover provided some National Rifle Association emails she's received which state things like, "President Barack Obama and the media are conspiring to DESTROY YOUR FREEDOM" and "Obama is echoing the media propaganda machine by calling for 'sensible gun control.' You and I know that's code for GUN BANS and GUN OWNER REGISTRATION."
The reasons for the increase vary depending on the source -- ranging from fears about Obama's re-election to last year's law enabling conceal and carry in most restaurants to single women wanting protection.
Two area counties -- Darke and Clark -- have surpassed their 2011 year-end total for handgun permits through half of 2012.
"We're bypassing what we'd had last year. Big time," said Walt Rich, a retired major and jail administrator who works five hours a day to administer the CCW paperwork in Darke County, which had issued 487 permits through June compared to 468 all of last year. "They're just kind of worried about what's going on.
"We don't have a problem with (more) people carrying guns. We really don't. Most of them are good people."
Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said he's been told people get their CCWs in his county -- permits can be issued from counties other than an applicant's home county -- because the process is fast and efficient. Clark County issued 393 permits through June compared to 385 in all of 2011.
Kelly said he is for firearms training, but that there are more guns in Clark County than people and that political fear isn't justified.
"The truth and the reality is the president has done nothing toward guns," Kelly said. "We're seeing weapons out on the streets like assault rifles, handguns with 15 rounds in a magazine ... .50 caliber pistols.
"Every person we come in contact with we have to assume they have a weapon. We have to."
Through the first two quarters of 2012, Montgomery, Greene, Preble and Miami counties have already issued between 67 percent and 79 percent of the total number of permits issued last year. Among local counties, only Warren County has seen a decrease.
"I think one of the big reasons is the passing of the restaurant carry bill last year," said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. "That was one of the big reasons people didn't go get a license because they go out to business lunches ... and it was illegal to carry in the vast majority of those places. So, if I can't carry there, it kind of screws up the whole day, so there's no point in getting a license. Now that they can carry at lunch, they can now carry throughout their entire day and now it's worth getting a license. I heard that from a lot of people."
Irvine likened gun owners wanting more guns to those who like shoes: "It's not really a matter of need, it's a matter of want."
Irvine called Obama "by far the most hostile president ever" on Second Amendment issues, though others say Obama hasn't really addressed the topic while in office. "I think the election and the fear of him getting re-elected certainly is driving sales to some extent, too."
Hoover said the higher NICS and concealed carry permit numbers are "very bothersome and worrisome." She added that, "Even though we might have that (Second Amendment) law, the bigger right is for everybody in this country to be able to live without violence and we're not moving in that direction when we keep putting more weapons out there."
Campbell said he is most interested in helping new gun owners get trained but realizes many clients want another new, shiny gun.
"There's a lot of folks out there just terrified that the government's going to take their guns away," Campbell said. "And that really isn't going to happen. But, still, they'll rush right out there and get all the guns they can, all the ammo they can and they're afraid things are going to disappear. They just want to stock up."
Concealed carry handgun licensing
Regular licenses issued (non-renewals)
2011 (full) 2012 (1Q+2Q)
Montgomery County 1,826 1,437
Greene County 852 656
Miami County 448 301
Warren County 1,284 470
Butler County 1,416 751
Clark County 385 393
Champaign County 193 121
Preble County 426 321
Darke County 468 487
9-county area 7,298 4,937
Ohio statewide 49,828 35,022
Source: Ohio Attorney General's Office
Ohio NICS firearm background checks
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows the massive upswing in checks for Ohio.
2012 (Jan.-Aug.): 357,945
National NICS checks
2012 (Jan.-Aug.) 11,728,224
Source: FBI statistics
Note: These statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold. Based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.
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