ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Here's some news that doesn't fit the trends. Gun sales are up by 10 percent this year nationwide, despite the down economy. As Wyoming Public Radio's Elsa Partan reports, that increase may have more to do with politics than economics.
ELSA PARTAN: It's busier than usual at Frontier Arms in Cheyenne. Five people crowd around the glass counter at Richard Holtz's gun shop to check out rifles and shotguns. Holtz is showing off a rack of AR style rifles. The price: $800 to $1,000. He says sales of these semiautomatics have been up nearly 50 percent in the last two months.
Mr. RICHARD HOLTZ (Proprietor, Frontier Arms): People have been buying some of them at two a time and buying a couple of cases of ammunition, which is a thousand rounds a case.
PARTAN: Back in 1994, this kind of semiautomatic was outlawed under the assault weapons ban. The ban ended in 2004 when Congress didn't renew it. But many people here are worried if Barack Obama wins the presidency, the ban will be back. Sixty-eight-year-old Bill Tonicliffe(ph) is handling a square, black gun that looks like it belong to Al Capone.
Mr. BILL TONICLIFFE: Well, that's an Uzi.
PARTAN: Did you just buy that today?
Mr. TONICLIFFE: I just got that today.
PARTAN: Tonicliffe says he decided to buy the Uzi today because of the election. He thinks his candidate, John McCain, may not win the presidency.
Mr. TONICLIFFE: I'm very concerned that this election goes the wrong way. There'll be - they'll find some way to attack our Second Amendment rights.
PARTAN: To Tonicliffe, buying an Uzi is part of those rights.
Mr. TONICLIFFE: I'm not going to use it for hunting. It's self-defense. But I guess we're entitled to that also, aren't we?
PARTAN: Down the street, a shop called Guns and Gear is also doing well. Owner Frank Gerstenkorn(ph) says sales are up around 22 percent in the last two months. He says, a few months ago about one customer each day would worry out loud about an Obama administration. Now, he hears it hourly.
Mr. FRANK GERSTENKORN (Proprietor, Guns and Gear): And it's very, very much evidenced by the number of guns we're selling and the kinds of guns we're selling that gun ownership could come under attack again at the federal level.
PARTAN: It's not the first time gun sales have followed political events. Paul Pluff of Smith and Wesson says his company saw an increase in business in 1992 when Bill Clinton was first elected president.
Mr. PAUL PLUFF (Marketing Services Director, Smith and Wesson): You could definitely attribute, you know, a good 20 to 30 percent spike in sales during that period of time.
PARTAN: In this election, the National Rifle Association has poured more than $2 million into ads opposing Barack Obama. The ads say Obama is against guns. That's something, Ray Schoenke says is just not true.
Mr. RAY SCHOENKE (President, American Hunters and Shooters Association): Its manufactured distortions, misrepresentations, and outright lies.
PARTAN: Schoenke is the head of the American Hunters and Shooters Association. He says Barack Obama is not against guns, and that's why his group has endorsed Obama.
Mr. SCHOENKE: You know, this whole issue of guns being taken away is over. That dog doesn't hunt anymore.
PARTAN: At the same time, Schoenke does acknowledge that Barack Obama supports bringing back the 1994 ban on assault weapons, something Schoenke and his group oppose. Still, he's hoping if Barack Obama does become president, his group will get a seat at the table for any negotiations on reviving the assault weapons ban. For NPR News, I'm Elsa Partan in Laramie, Wyoming.
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