Gun-control talk triggers fast sales, supply shortages in Modesto area
MODESTO, Jan 19, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Talk of stricter gun-control legislation has thus far not led to any new laws in the state or nation. If anything, it has had the opposite effect sought by proponents of the legislation, sparking a nationwide surge in gun and ammunition sales.
"When the president talks gun control, he sells guns," said Steve Moe, co-owner of Bilson's Sport Shop in Turlock. "It creates a buying frenzy and, when (guns) come in short supply, people want them even more."
Firearms sales at his store have increased fivefold since the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in mid-December, Moe said. He is rationing ammunition and can't keep some rifles on the shelf for longer than 10 minutes. What's more, inflated prices haven't been a deterrent.
Moe said his biggest seller has been the Smith and Wesson M&P rifle, which last month sold for $649 and is now $1,300.
It has a "bullet button," which California state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has proposed making illegal. Senate Bill 47 would prohibit the use of the bullet button and other devices that allow for easy replacement of magazines on all assault weapons.
The button allows for a quick magazine change by using a pointed object, like the end of a bullet, to reach a recessed magazine release. The button can't be pushed by a finger, so the magazine is considered fixed, making the weapon exempt from California's ban on assault rifles.
In California, a semiautomatic rifle is deemed an assault weapon if it has a detachable ammunition magazine plus one of several specific features, such as a pistol grip, flash suppressor or grenade launcher.
The definition of what makes an assault weapon varies widely from state to state. The seven states with assault-weapons laws have much different standards. Hawaii and Maryland laws, for example, deal only with pistols.
President Barack Obama this week included a renewed assault weapons ban as part of his effort to combat gun violence.
A national ban would have little effect in California, said Steven Brack, owner of Oakdale Guns & Ammo. Ninety percent of the firearms that constitute an assault weapon under proposed federal legislation already are illegal here.
Regardless, gun enthusiasts in California are on par with the rest of the nation when it comes to the gun craze.
In December, the number of FBI background checks on prospective gun buyers increased in every state over November, as well as over December 2011.
Nationwide, there were 2.8 million background checks last month, an increase of 38 percent from November, according to FBI statistics.
2012 already was a banner year for the gun industry, with projected 8.2 percent growth over 2011 -- just as 2008, another presidential election year, saw a significant increase in gun sales.
The Washington Post and Oakland Tribune contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366.
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