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Fear of Gun Control Drives Maryland Firearm Sales

'Every day has been absolutely crazy for the last [few] weeks.' —Cecil County gun shop owner

By Rashee Raj Kumar, CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

Fears of new gun control regulations proposed by President Barack Obama and Gov. Martin O’Malley have intensified sales at Maryland gun shops.

"Everybody is panicking," said Henry Calvert, president of Calvert Firearms in North East. "Every day has been absolutely crazy for the last [few] weeks."

While the boost in sales has bolstered gun dealers' profits, it has also led to a shortage in the supply of guns in the state, especially assault rifles, gun shop owners said. 

“It’s a bear market," Calvert said. "Everyone is purchasing everything that comes in."

Last week, Obama proposed a set of gun control regulations that included a universal background check for all gun sales and a ban on military-style assault weapons. Within days, O’Malley proposed a similar ban on assault weapons in Maryland and limits on the size of magazines.

But Maryland's spike in gun sales predates the proposals in Annapolis and Washington, according to FBI statistics and gun shop owners.

The FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 36,220 background checks for gun purchases in Maryland in November and December 2012. That marks a 49 percent increase compared with the same period in 2011, when the agency processed 24,376 background checks. 

Gun shop owners said sales surged in December following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

In the four days following the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, Andrew Raymond of Engage Armament in Rockville said his store did 10 times more business than he anticipated; he expected to sell $25,000 worth of merchandise and ended up selling $260,000.

While business is strong now, Raymond said he is concerned about the future.

“What we specialize in as a business is assault rifles,” he said. 

Assault rifles account for 60 to 70 percent of Engage Armament’s business, with handguns making up the rest. A federal or state ban on assault rifles could force him out of business, he said.

Other gun owners say the talk of new gun control regulations in Washington has driven sales upward since October.

Michael Faith, the marketing director at Hendershot's Sporting Goods in Hagerstown, said the uptick started the day after the second presidential debate on Oct. 16, when Obama mentioned renewing the assault weapons ban.

“The sales are fear-driven right now,” said Faith.

“From a business standpoint, sales have been good," he continued. "I can sell every handgun and AR-15 I can get, but the problem is supply.”

Faith also has concerns about any new proposed gun control legislation.

“New York passed legislation that bans anything over seven rounds. If Maryland passes legislation like New York, that affects more than 95 percent of our pistol inventory,” he said. Hendershot's Sporting Goods hired eight new employees to handle increased demand after the second debate. Legislative changes could cost these employees their jobs, Faith said.

Current Maryland Gun Laws

Handguns

  • 21 years old to purchase
  • Sales regulated
  • No permit necessary to purchase
  • Permit required for concealed carry
  • No license required to own
  • Registration required through Maryland State Police
  • Safety training program required through Maryland State Police

Assault Weapons (30 guns and their copies are included in category)

  • 21 years old to purchase
  • Sales regulated
  • No permit necessary to purchase
  • No license required to own
  • Registration required through Maryland State Police
  • Safety training program required through Maryland State Police

Ammunition Magazines

  • Limited to 20-round capacity
  • Three groups are prohibited from purchasing: convicts with felony or certain misdemeanor records, the mentally ill and drug/alcohol abusers

Proposed Changes to Maryland Law

  • Complete ban on assault rifle sales
  • Magazine capacity reduced to 10-round maximum
  • Digital fingerprinting required for handgun ownership, to go in police records
  • Updated safety training for handgun ownership
  • Not-yet-detailed expanded definition of an assault rifle
  • Required background check for all handgun sales
  • Increased focus on mental health/school safety
  • Adding people in guardianship, and people who have been court-ordered to a mental treatment facility and are deemed as potentially violent, to the list of prohibited purchasers of firearms
  • Creation of Maryland center for school safety

Proposed Changes to Federal Law

  • Increased focus on mental health/school safety
  • Closing loopholes permitting private gun transactions without background checks
  • Banning “straw purchasers,” people who purchase firearms for people who would otherwise not be able to obtain them
  • Increased investment in local police departments
  • Reinstatement and expansion of assault weapon ban of 1994-2004
  • Creation of 10-round maximum for magazines
  • Removal of restrictions on the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau to enable it to better enforce regulations
  • Establishment of annual report on lost and stolen guns
  • Requiring all guns be traced from manufacturer to dealer to purchaser
  • Banning of armor-piercing bullets

Allen Etzler also contributed to this article.

Steve Rice January 29, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Yes, there is no evidence. So we do not legislate based on emotion. Life for our children, would be extremely dangerous in the future if we did. And for suicide he writes, "It also should be pointed out that the issue of violent assaults is not related to the issue of deaths by suicide, which accounts for approximately 60% of firearm related deaths in the United States (BJS, 2002)," That's firearms in general, so it just furthers my point. "Compulsory national reporting of mentally ill and background checks won't help much, because they can't be identified." That's my point. There are no laws on the books that allow or force social workers and certain mental health professionals to report individuals who have a tendency to commit bodily harm to the NCIS. Make it happen. It will do far more to curb sporadic mass-shootings than a "magazine restriction." Of course, gun violence still won't go down because the real issue lies in the heart of our major population centers. Blacks & Mexicans have been offing each other for decades, no one really seems to care. You can use the FBI's statistics on gun violence to literally target the very neighborhoods where shootings are prevalent. If you really wanted to curb gun violence politicians would march into these streets, institute policies to curb unemployment and invest in education. Magic, gun violence goes down. Of course, it doesn't make a good story for the media.
Steve Rice January 29, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Fully automatic weapons are banned because they like barrels under 18 inches were deemed unnecessary for the public defense and the fact that gangsters were using them on police who were equipped with .38 special revolvers. That's not going out today. So quit perpetuating the myth that AR's and AK's are running rampant in the streets as if FARC decided to move up north. Oh yea, btw how's strict gun control working in Mexico for you, where mere possession of a firearm is illegal? It would be really tough to make the argument for semi-auto weapons, as not needed for personal or state defense. And "well-regulated militia,_ in the context it was written simply means a properly functioning militia. It would be the same as saying a "well-regulated car." As to who is the militia? ..."Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress has no power to disarm the militia. Their swords and every terrible implement of the soldier are the birthright of Americans. The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments but where, I trust in God, it will always remain, in the hands of the people." -Tench Coxe, one of the founding fathers. And please, gang violence is lower in those countries because they have FAR FEWER urban centers than the US as well as a myriad of other SOCIAL factors. Crime/gun violence is exponentially higher in cities.
Steve Rice January 29, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Finally, your appeal to try more gun control isn't new at all, so quit acting like it is. There are plenty of states and areas that have super strict gun control, but still have the highest murder rates in the country. Look at Chicago and DC. They should be the safest cities in the country. But I dare you to take a midnight stroll on Chicago's north-side or on DC's "L-Street?" Haha, oh and I can't wait to hear the excuse that it's because they get their guns from Indiana or Virginia because they have less gun control, but for some reason their cities aren't even near as violent. The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
rodzzz January 30, 2013 at 08:39 AM
Steve, I don't mind your arguments against gun control. I agree that the focus is misdirected. You could even say kicking up a fuss over mass shootings in white neighborhoods that constitute a small proportion of gun-related deaths and ignoring the gun deaths going on in the streets everyday in mostly black and Latino areas is kind of racist. If you ask me why there is less gang violence in Australia and the UK, I'd say it is because they have better welfare for the poor and offer free health and education, giving young poor kids some actual opportunities in life. The problem is, you probably won't see much support for any of these sorts of 'social' measures among the pro-gun group, because they view them as 'communist'. So what's the answer then in reducing gun-related deaths?
Rob February 04, 2013 at 11:11 PM
To Andrew. Because guns don't kill people, people kill people. Abortionists kill more people than any other group and they don't use guns. In fact far more children are killed in a week by abortionists then are killed yearly in the US by people using guns. In fact more babies are killed by abortionists in a week then athe total murders in a year. That does not include self abortions. Abortionists don't use guns they use much worse. They dice, slice and suck the baby out with no regard for the pain they cause.

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