Brian Camp can't find all the guns he needs.
That's not good for Camp because he runs a gun shop. Big Daddy's Sports Haven in Deerfield Township reopened Friday after more than two months of remodeling to find perhaps the biggest guns and ammunition shortage since World War II.
"I had one old lady come in," Camp said Friday of one customer looking for a gun. "I called five different distributors, including the two biggest in the country. They had seven handguns left in stock. Seven. That's it."
Camp's situation is not unique. Across the nation, sales of guns and ammunition have skyrocketed since November, while their availability has sharply decreased. The sales spike has been focused largely on assault rifles, handguns, shotguns and other weapons used for personal defense. Many attribute it to fears that Obama's administration could ban some semiautomatic weapons. Some also attribute the tanking economy and corresponding fears of increased crime that could accompany the newfound poverty some may experience.
"We know that Obama is anti-gun," Camp said. "We know the vice president is even worse than him. And we know people are afraid, because times are tough, of getting broken into."
Whatever the cause, background checks on gun buyers were up 29 percent in March 2009 compared with March 2008, according to FBI data cited by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. There have been similar increases every month since November, when the FBI performed a record 1,529,635 background checks, up 42 percent from November 2007. With no national statistics on firearms sales, those background checks may be the most reliable gauge of gun sales.
Some people are buying handguns, shotguns and assault rifles for the first time, gun dealers say. Some are simply buying more ammunition than they typically buy.
"They used to buy one box of ammo," said Tom Gormley, who owns Tip's Hardware in Eagleswood Township. "Now they're buying five, six boxes of ammo."
Some concerns about changes in gun policy by the Obama administration may be well-founded. In February, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated the administration could renew a ban on assault weapons sales put in place by President Bill Clinton. That ban lapsed under President George W. Bush.
Neil Lindstrom, an antique weaponry dealer in Barnegat Township, stopped selling most modern guns at Lindy's Guns nearly 20 years ago. That has not stopped people from calling him looking for assault rifles.
"I had six people calling me for AR-15 rifles," Lindstrom said. "They're calling everyone like a telemarketer. Prior to that, I had no one call for two years, and now I had six in two weeks."
Despite the fears of changes to the law, some dealers remain able to obtain the guns they need, and often these are larger gun shops with bigger clientele bases, such as Butch's Gun World in Vineland and Belleplain Supply Gun Center in Belleplain.
Still, some are paying higher prices for ammunition. About a year ago, some firearms dealers began to see ammunition prices rising because of metal shortages, and they have remained high due to demand that has created the shortage.
"It's supply and demand," Belleplain owner Nick Germanio said. "The manufacturers can't build enough to meet the demand."
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