Demand for guns and ammunition on the North Coast and Pacific County mirrors demand across the nation as gun owners stock up, leaving store shelves bare.

Sandy Bennett, owner of Sandy’s Guns and Ammo LLC in Long Beach, said his sales of guns have doubled since 2012.

“The run on guns and ammo started shortly after Obama opened his mouth,” referring to the president’s comments after the tragic mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“I’ve exhausted most of the popular calibers,” he said. “Gun sales have increased to the point where I need to restock.”

Doug McDonald, manager of the Raymond Dennis Co., said, “They’re worried about gun control.”

McDonald, who handles ammunition ordering for all Dennis Co. stores, said anything for most military style weapons or handguns is gone. Manufacturers are backlogged for months, he added.

Meanwhile demand remains high. “If we could get it, we could sell it,” McDonald said.

Jerry Davis at Bulldog Firearms & Supply operates out of Ocean Park, home of the Rod Run to the End of the World, but that doesn’t stop gun owners from as far away as Florida calling him to ask about guns and ammunition.

Other dealers also said callers across the country are seeking ammunition wherever they can find it.

Davis said he’s down 65 percent on ammunition but has most of the popular calibers available, including .223/556, 9mm, .40- and .45-caliber and hunting rounds. But .22-caliber is another story.

“Everybody’s out or low and they can’t get it,” Davis said. “I get a little bit here and there.”

A bumper sticker on his back wall tells the tale: “Due to Price Increases on Ammo Do Not Expect A Warning Shot.”

McDonald said a similar run on ammunition occurred after the 2008 presidential election, but this one is different.

“I think the severity caught us by surprise,” he said. “It was much worse this time; I’m not sure what caused that. I don’t think anyone saw it coming.”

Manufacturers are operating over capacity to get caught up, McDonald said. “With larger caliber ammo, they’re talking months down the road; when they get caught up with that they’ll start to manufacture .22 ammo, and that’ll be next summer and fall before we see much of that.”

An optimistic view

On the south side of the Columbia River the situation is much the same.

Jeff Kelland, owner of North Coast Shooter’s Supply in Warrenton, said he has been running low on .223, 9mm, .22- and .45-caliber ammunition since January. The concern over gun control legislation also spiked his sales of guns.

January through March is usually his slowest period of the year, but January turned out to be his biggest month ever.

He opened in 2008 and acknowledged the run on guns then as concern grew about gun rights being taken away in response to the election of President Obama.

Kelland is optimistic that severe restrictions on gun rights will fail in Congress and things will return to normal. Meanwhile manufacturers are working overtime to fill a mountain of gun and ammunition orders caused by the fear.

The run on guns and ammo feeds on itself, he said.

“Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemy,” Kelland said. “I keep telling people to relax and take a breath; it’ll come back. I have no doubt it will normalize. The question is will it normalize before the next shooting tragedy.”

Small shops

At Johnson’s Gun Shop, Terry Johnson said he can’t even backorder ammunition. The run on guns and ammo is taking a toll on his bottom line.

He said: “I’ve been trying to get standard .22 ammunition since December. And it’s not just ammo; it’s reloading components. Bullets are not available, primers, powder, all of that is almost totally unavailable. I’m told powder is four to six months out, and they can’t promise they’ll deliver it then.

“Pistols — if you’re not a large dealer, you’re not getting any pistols. If there are any available, they’re allocated to large dealers. It’s getting insanely tight.”

Kelland at North Coast said things have slowed since his record-setting January. He keeps busy by offering consignments, service and gun safety and live-fire training. He said his low overhead and ancillary services should keep him busy as supplies dwindle.

Bulldog’s Davis said he can’t complain about business. He attributes much of that to his local clientele. “The people are excellent,” he said.

In addition to sales, Davis also hosts licensed and certified gun safety classes using certified instructors, holds classes for owners seeking Oregon concealed weapons permits and offers repairs by certified gunsmiths.

Political hot potato

Bennett, owner of Sandy’s, expressed frustration at what he sees as politicians using the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary to push an anti-gun agenda.

Mike Foster, a regular at Sandy’s Guns and Ammo, has been a lifelong gun enthusiast. He teaches his friends to shoot safely and keeps guns for protection.

“I have no interest in owning an automatic weapon,” he said. “I think the whole thing’s been blown out of proportion by the government and the media.”

Kelland said the latest push for gun control is a knee-jerk response to the horror of the Sandy Hook tragedy, but banning the weapons won’t solve the problem.

“You can’t legislate something out of existence; it won’t work,” he said.

The demand will still be there, just not from law-abiding citizens, Kelland said. If the military style weapons are banned, criminals will still find a way to get ahold of them, he said.

“Law-abiding citizens will still be law-abiding citizens, and they’re the ones who’ll be punished,” he said. “That doesn’t fit into my sense of fair play.”

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