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State Gun Sales Spike

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If you’re looking to buy a new hunting rifle, shotgun, or even a handgun right now you may have to wait in line. Gun stores around the state are doing good business at the moment. SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray reports that the election of a Democratic president isn’t the only thing driving up sales.

During the presidential debates–Barack Obama said this: 

“Weapons that were designed for solders in war theaters don’t belong on our streets, and so what I’m trying to do is get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally–part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced.  But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence, Because frankly in my home town of Chicago there is a lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47’s they’re using cheap handguns,” says Obama. 
 
The president’s mention of the words “assault weapons ban” is enough to make some gun enthusiasts jittery, and that can lead increased sales at your local gun shop.  Mary Bollock manages the gun department at “Runnings” in Rapid City it’s one of a few places in town where you can buy an AR-15 Assault Rifle and a six pack of beer under the same roof.
 
“We get a lot of comments about that – but I think it’s kind of unique about the way the stores used to have them.  You know the old hardware stories.  Come in get your nuts and bolts and your trapping supplies and you know they always had guns in the corner,” says Bollock. 
 
Bollock says many of her customers express vehement opposition to the Obama Administration– she says politics and retail don’t mix so she steers clear of those conversations and tries to calm nerves.  At the same time she notes gun sales are strong right now.
 
“We sell a tremendous amount of handguns and you know guns for protection and self-defense.  The other sides is anything that looks like an assault weapon, that is probably every other customer right now, they love it,” says Bollock. 
 
Bollock believes the increase in sales is about more than just the presidential election.   She points to one of the hottest selling items right now–pink colored handguns.  She says more and more women are learning to shoot and more of them are carrying handguns.  At the First Stop Guns in Downtown Rapid City owner Mark Blote is seeing a similar trend.  
 
“But it seems to me there are more new shooters and more ladies and there is just more interest in target shooting and firearms in general,” says Blote.
 
Others point out that the increase in gun sales may also involve a basic human instinct – fear.
 
“Generally what we see is that more guns get sold when people are more fearful,” says Tim Wadsworth.
 
Tim Wadsworth is professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Professor Wadsworth says lots of things can drive this fear -- the media coverage of tragic shootings, the concerns over the economy.   Dr. Wadsworth says this fear is primarily media driven.  Wadsworth and others point out that violent crime is in fact on a downward trend.  Other sociologists note that we are arguably living in one of the safest times in our history.   There is less overall violent crime now than there was in the early 1990’s—but Wadswoth says a reduction in violence is not what you see in the media.
 
“You know I just got an e-mail this morning, from the Bureau of Justice, and it says Bureau of Justice of study finds violence committed by strangers has declined by 77%.   So, we are in fact living in a much less crime-prone society than we have in a long time.  I would suggest the vast majority of people are unaware of that because you turn on the nightly news and that’s still the focus,” says Wadsworth. 
 
Despite the reduction in violent crime--gun sales continue to increase.  A 2012 study shows that the United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world–it says there are about 90 guns for every 100 people.  So, even if you’re somehow a South Dakotan that is not a gun owner–have no fear. Come the zombie apocalypse there are still plenty of guns to go around.