State

Local sales shoot up; Washington liberals might be the reason

There are no layoffs, no furloughs and no signs of a recession at gun stores such as Barnwood Arms in Ripon.

A spike in sales that began after Barack Obama won November's presidential election continued throughout the spring, with the FBI reporting dramatic monthly increases in the number of background checks it performed on would-be gun buyers.

Although the Obama administration hasn't taken a strong stand on gun laws, customers are betting that a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic-controlled Congress will translate into stricter gun-control laws and perhaps the revival of a national assault rifle ban that expired in 2004.

So a liberal in the Oval Office has been good for business.

"That was our stimulus package," said Joseph Mangelos, who has owned the shop on East Main Street for 32 years and reported a 40 percent increase in sales in the past year, even though California still has an assault rifle ban on the books.

Background checks, which are required whenever someone tries to purchase a firearm from a licensed retailer, are a strong indicator of sales. According to data from the California Department of Justice, about 1 percent of people who try to purchase guns are turned away.

Glocks, Colt M4s preferred

Salesmen at Barnwood Arms said Obama's election brought a surge in sales to first-time gun buyers who worried that they would not be able to get a gun if they did not purchase one quickly.

They said demand has been particularly strong for .40-caliber Glock handguns, which are used by police officers, and .22-caliber Colt M4 rifles, which look like military-style assault weapons.

A spike in gun sales dropped off a bit in the past month, salesmen said, but profits remain strong because longtime gun enthusiasts are stockpiling ammunition for fear that politicians will impose taxes that put gun ownership out of reach for the average person.

As a result, stores around the region have had a hard time keeping enough ammunition on their shelves.

Sam Zoerb, 18, of Modesto, who was in the store with his father and enjoyed some target practice at the firing range, said he has noticed the phenomena. As he put it, "You have to pre-order."

Ramon Nuno, manager of Ronning Arms, a Modesto gun store on Yosemite Boulevard, said he has noticed a spike in handgun and shotgun sales since Obama took office.

Nuno said his store also has been hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for ammunition.

"I can't stock handgun ammo," he said Thursday. "I got a shipment today of about 2,000 rounds and I have 50 rounds left."

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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