GUNS, AMMO & OBAMA: Post-election firearms economics creating anxiety among buyers, sellers
by Ted Carter
Published: November 21,2012
The promoter who puts on the most gun shows each year in Mississippi says the re-election of President Obama and the law of supply-and-demand have combined to create an uncertain future for promoters such as himself.
The viability of the 10 shows David Chancellor presents each year hinges on meeting the expectations of customers who come to his shows in search of ammunition, firearms accessories and — of course — firearms. If those expectations aren’t met, the Ellisville entrepreneur is out of business.
On one hand, the opportunities to reap rewards are better than ever. On the other, though, a lot of circumstances are in play that Chancellor can’t control.
The weekend before Thanksgiving turned out well for Chancellor. He had a packed house of vendors and visitors on the Saturday and Sunday at the Wahabi Shrine Temple in Jackson, one of two gun shows Chancellor presents each year in the Capital City. His sellers had the ammunition, accessories and weapons visitors wanted – though at prices that perhaps caused some hesitation at transaction time.
The trick will be to repeat the success with upcoming shows in Natchez, Philadelphia, Pascagoula, Laurel and on a return to Jackson.
A case of the nerves had been prominent among the entire firearms sector in the months leading to the presidential election. Those anxieties escalated with Obama’s statement in the third presidential debate that he wants to take another look at new firearms restrictions, including renewal of the ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
A not-unexpected spike in demand for firearms ammunition and accessories followed within hours a of the election tally.
“He put it out there.” Chancellor said of the president’s hints at new restrictions.
The result is that today is about “supply and demand,” Chancellor added. “Everybody is demanding more and the supply isn’t there.”
Dealers at his shows are nonetheless expected to deliver the goods, especially the ammunition sellers, he said. If they don’t, show visitors “aren’t going to be happy when they come through that door,” Chancellor said, standing outside his Jackson gun show and pointing toward the exit.
“There’s stuff at stake,” he said.
That much is obvious to Roger Blakely, a Selmer, Tenn., guns, ammo and accessories dealer who says he had to pay suppliers 30 percent to 35 percent more for the ammunition he sold at Chancellor’s Nov. 17-18 Capital City Gun show in Jackson. “And that’s for what we can get,” Blakely said.
Blakely, like many other U.S. weapons dealers and gun enthusiasts, is prone to conspiracy theories. Besides the spike in demand caused by the president’s re-election, his theory is this: The Department of Homeland Security is buying up the supply of ammunition to keep it out of the hands of a restive civilian population.
Regardless of the roots of the shortage, Blakely says if ammunition prices continue to climb and go beyond the reach of his customers, he does not expect to stay in business. “We’ll be sitting at home; that’s where will be,” he said.
James Jackson of Gulfport’s Worldwide Firearms had spent the past day and a half at the gun show passing on 25 percent increases in ammo costs he had been hit with in the last week. “They are not happy,” Jackson said of customers. “Last Friday, all of the major manufacturers announced a 25 percent spike either immediately or on Dec. 1.”
The steepness surprised him, he said, noting he had expected a hike of only 10 percent.
That same Friday Jackson learned of the price jump, online mainstay The-Armory.com advised its customers it had cancelled all sales promotions. “Due to the results of the recent election, orders for ammunition and related products have increased exponentially,” the advisory said. “This has resulted in the majority of our products advertised on our previous sales flier email to be sold out. Unfortunately, due to supply and demand our suppliers and importers have increased their price to us and this is completely out of our control.”
Another popular online seller, LuckyGunner.com, vowed to keep passing the ammunition. “Last week we were hit with a huge onslaught of demand… around 10 Tuesday night when Ohio was called we saw our volume increase by 400 percent,” the cyber seller said in an email to customers.
“Our team was at the office until 2 a.m. and back up around 5 a.m. hunting for deals. Our warehouse team has been working seven days a week to ensure that we stay on top of this market frenzy.”
The scarcity of product goes beyond ammunition, according to Dwayne Ems, a custom firearms builder at Biloxi’s Woolmarket Pawn & Gun.
Working a booth at Chancellor’s gun show in Jackson, he said distributors have advised him to expect an 18-month backlog for parts, though some of the backlog may be as short as four to five months. “I use 24 different distributors and I still have trouble with parts,” Ems said.
Getting parts for simple repairs is expected to require a five-week wait, he added.
Ramp-up may not be solution
The solution would seem to be a step-up in production by manufacturers, but there’s more to it than that, said Larry Weeks, a spokesman for Brownells, a Montezuma, Iowa-based mail-order and online supplier of firearms, parts, accessories and ammunition.
Parts makers have been trying to keep up, he said in a interview last week. “The problem is, how far do you ramp up? “
You buy buildings, machines and hire workers only to later find you have buildings, machines and people “you can’t use,” he said.
In some ways, today is a replay of 2008, when the election of Democrat Obama created fears he would re-instate the Clinton-era assault weapons ban and other provisions of the Brady Bill. The demand that occurred then has stayed steady, according to Weeks, who said that companies that ramped-up production in the wake of the 2008 election continue to do well.
In anticipation of the Nov. 6 election, Brownells increased early orders of 5.56mm XM193 ammunition, a round used by owners of the AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles. However, supplies of another type round made for the AR-15 style rifles, the .223, have been a struggle to find, Weeks said.
On the parts front, Brownells had 100 lowers for the AR-15 in stock on election Tuesday. By Wednesday, “We had back- ordered 55 of that same item,” he said.
The AR-15 stripper lower, the part that attaches below the AR-15 lower and includes the trigger mechanism, can’t be found anywhere today, according to Weeks.
Prices aren’t the problem at the moment but product is, he said. “We don’t belie we’re seeing price increases. What we’re seeing is that people just can’t get” the firearms products they seek.
Of their own making
West Point’s Steve Barnett is watching from the sidelines as the economics of today’s firearm sector play out in Mississippi and across the country. His Steve Barnett Fine Guns shop specializes in high-end collector firearms, making him a non-participant in the current market turmoil.
His interest is in firearms as an investment, a commodity that he expects will rise in value while other commodities may lose value. “I sell nothing but antiques. I don’t sell guns that Obama wants to take away,” he said. “My business has been good since the crash of 2008.”
The gun economics in play today, he said, seem mostly to be caused by gun buyers rather than makers. But the makers are more than happy to let it all unfold, according to Barnet.
“It’s not the manufacturers’. It’s the scared public. It’s the Internet, these chat rooms, and emails and the like,” he said. “We’ve created this ourselves. The manufacturers are going to stay right with it.”
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