Gun sales increase with fear of new policies

The administration might extend the ban on weapons that expired in 2004.

Carl Houchins examines his rifle as he prepares to haggle for a price with a prospective customer at the gun show Saturday at the Copper Kettle in Ashland. Houchins, who is retired, sells his private collection at the biannual gun show.

ASHLAND -- As the national demand for firearms increases, some local gun show dealers said they fear Washington has its sights on Americans' rights to own firearms.

Although President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he will not take guns away from those who legally own them, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Feb. 25 the administration would seek to extend an assault weapons ban former President George Bush allowed to expire in 2004.

The Outdoor Wire, the largest news service for outdoor sports in the U.S., named Obama its 2008 Gun Salesman of the Year, stating fears of increased gun regulation are leading consumers to stockpile guns while they are still available.

Kyle Hue, a dealer selling firearms and ammunition at a gun show Saturday at the Copper Kettle restaurant in Ashland, said ammunition has been hard to come by recently.

"A lot of it's hard to get," Hue said. "It's sold within a few days."

Government statistics show many Americans are deciding the time is right to purchase a firearm. The number of FBI background checks, a way to approximate U.S. gun sales, increased in 2008. In November, background checks shot up 42 percent from 2007.

These statistics show the upward trend in gun sales has continued after the inauguration. January background checks were up 22 percent from 2008, and February checks were up 20 percent.

"People heard he's going to take them away," gun dealer Casey Walker said in reference to Obama. "They're holding onto what they got."

Dan Downing owns the Copper Kettle, the restaurant that hosts the show twice a year. He said he has hosted the show for four years, and it has been growing in attendance every year.

"The general consensus is when liberals are in power, they are not as receptive to gun owners' rights," Downing said.

On Jan. 6, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued a notice of unprecedented requests for form 4473, which is required for federally licensed firearm transactions. The notice directed licensees to make complete copies until the agency is able to meet requests.

Fears of increased gun regulation come not only from the presence of a Democrat in the White House but also from the dominantly Democratic Congress.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., proposed a bill Jan. 6 that would require the Justice Department to monitor firearms transfers and gun-related crime more extensively.

One Ashland gun dealer said lawmakers were incorrect in trying to curtail violent crime by imposing more strict regulation on firearms.

"They go after guns instead of actual criminals," Ashland resident Richard Burnett said. "It's easier to control guns than people."

At the state level, some lawmakers are pushing for less stringent regulations on the places where gun owners can carry a concealed firearm. A bill proposed in the Missouri House would allow a person with a concealed carry permit to bring a firearm into any college or university.

Missouri Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, sponsored the bill, which has not yet been scheduled for a hearing or put on a calendar.

MU College Republicans Chairman Jonathan Ratliff said he submitted the concealed carry legislation to Munzlinger as MU chapter president for the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Ratliff said gun owners should be apprehensive about how the Obama administration will handle Second Amendment rights.

"People are scared about what the administration is going to do," Ratliff said. "Obama doesn't respect the individual liberties of American people. People are trying to do all they can to take care of themselves."

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