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Next six weeks will tell the tale

Firearms business up or down?

JACKSON — When he was younger, Jeff Speed used to skip church to go to a hunting supply store on Farish Street.

“I used to beg my mother to take me to that store,” Speed said.

Today, Speed is the owner of Mean Mallard Inc. on Old Canton Road, and he sees a lot of himself in some of the customers who come into his store to shop. “It’s quite flattering,” Speed said.

This year, gun and hunting supply stores, as well as clubs and shooting centers, have seen their share of ups and downs as a result of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and the recession-like economy. But with hunting season here most are now experiencing fairly normal business.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind we’re in a recession right now,” Speed said. “I’m not an economics major but it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. But the nice thing about Mississippi is that Bubba is always going to hunt. He may not buy a new $1,000 gun but he’ll buy new shells, clothes.”

Speed has been in business three years now and saw increases in sales over that time in business. After the terrorist attacks though, he estimated, his business was set back $100,000 to $150,000. However, it is the next six weeks that will tell the tale as to whether his business for the year will be up or down, he said.

“Probably 50% of our annual volume is done in six weeks’ time,” Speed said.

As for gun buying, Speed said he hasn’t seen an increase, but he added he had not seen much of a decrease either.

Gary Zweimueller, owner of Blackstock’s Safe and Lock Inc. on North State Street in Jackson, said his business has improved dramatically since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I read some statistics and according to them gun sales are up 60% since the terrorist attacks on us,” Zweimueller said. “People realize that as much as Bill Clinton told us the government was going to protect us, people realize that’s not true.”

Zweimueller said he has always been of such a frame of mind.

Zweimueller said his rifle sales are up a bit because of hunting season, but said that his handgun sales were up too.

“I’ve had a ten-fold increase in handgun inquiries,” Zweimueller said. “We lived in a cushy dream world a little too long and we thought we were untouchable and we are touchable and people are realizing that.”

Zweimueller has run Blackstock’s for 17 years now and sells more knives than he does guns because, he said, knives are easier to sell; they require less paperwork.

Clyde H. Morgan, Ed.D., is the owner of the Sherman Hill Public Shooting Center in Forest and said he has not seen any real increase or more seriousness at the center as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Had I not known about 9/11 I would not have noted any volume increase because of it,” Morgan said.

While the amount of business Morgan does at the center has not increased, there have been new targets to take aim at, including pictures of Osama Bin Laden that people have brought to the center.

“It may be that we’re so far out (of Jackson),” Morgan said.

But since the Sept. 11 attacks, Morgan said he has noticed that more people are applying for concealed weapon permits now, and that gun sales seem to be increasing as well.

“That’s the way they react to sociological problems,” Morgan said.

Greg McDade, owner of McDade’s Grocery, is a board member of the Magnolia Rifle and Pistol Club and president of the International Practical Shooters Club. He said he has not seen a change in his club over the year or since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Our club is the same as it’s always been,” McDade said. “Same members, same people competing.”

Speed said, “This (hunting) is something that’s been around forever and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon and I hope it doesn’t.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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