By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Customers are concerned that the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, including 20 children, will lead to tighter gun restrictions, particularly on semiautomatic weapons such as the AR-15-like Bushmaster that was used in the Newtown, Conn., shooting Dec. 14.
The Associated Press reported that assault rifles are sold out across the country and that rounds of .223-caliber bullets, such those used in the AR-15 type rifles, are scarce.
No organization publicly releases gun sales data.
The only way to measure demand is by the number of background checks that are conducted when someone wants to buy a firearm.
Those numbers are released by the Federal Reserve Bureau every month. Data for December are not out yet.
Don Carey, owner of Blue Mountain Gun Works east of Port Angeles, said sales have more than doubled since the tragedy.
Before the shooting, the store at 10 Erving Jacobs Road sold about $2,000 worth of guns in a week.
“I’m doing in excess of $2,000 a day,” Carey said a week after the shooting.
Carey said customers especially want assault weapons “because they feel like those guns are going to be banned.”
Carey said: “We’re losing freedoms, and we believe there are going to be serious repercussions from this.
“I think we’ll see a high capacity ban, and I think that’s going to be simply by executive order. I think there will be a push to do away with private sales and force background checks, which I am in favor of, to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
But Carey is opposed to an outright ban on tactical firearms used in shooting competitions and varmint hunting.
“I think that’s going a little too far,” he said.
The Connecticut gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, used a Bushmaster, one of several brands of weapons based on the AR-15, that belonged to his mother in the attack on the school.
Police said Lanza killed his mother before shooting the elementary school students and staff.
“Maybe we should address how did this person [Lanza] get a hold of this firearm,” Carey said.
Michael Asbury, owner of Down Range Guns & Gear at 93 Oak Bay Road in Port Hadlock, noticed “a big spike in inquiries” about military-style weapons after the Connecticut shooting.
Asbury specializes in hunting rifles and handguns, ordering semiautomatic weapons on special request.
The one tactical weapon that Asbury had on stock after the shooting “went out the door immediately,” he said.
Asbury said an unintended consequence of an outright ban would be the stockpiling of AK-47 assault rifles and AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.
“These are investors buying these things,” Asbury said, drawing comparisons to the silver dollar.
“Those [weapons] are going on somebody’s shelf.”
Asbury last week was getting at least a dozen inquiries per day about military-style weapons.
He and Carey each run thorough background checks before selling guns.
Asbury said he has turned customers away, adding that he supports National Rifle Association-sanctioned training.
“My mantra is safe hunting and safe shooting,” he said.
Swain’s General Store at 602 E. First St. in Port Angeles does not sell firearms, but does sell ammunition and gun accessories.
Store General Manager Don Droz said ammunition sales have been consistent in recent weeks.
The owners of several other Peninsula gun stores declined to comment or would not return phone calls.
A recent Seattle Times analysis showed that Clallam County had the highest per capita percentage of active concealed pistol licenses in Western Washington.
The analysis, based on state Department of Licensing data, showed that 12.33 percent of Clallam County citizens age 21 and older has a gun license.
In Jefferson County, 9.35 percent of eligible adults has an active permit.
The state average was 7.82 percent.
Lincoln County in Eastern Washington led the state with a 17.68 percent gun ownership, and King County has the lowest at 5.27 percent.
Carey said the majority of his sales are small, concealable handguns.
He estimated that 60 percent of his customers are women.
“Of those sales, a high percentage, a little over 50, is the elderly,” Carey said.
“So it’s not the young. It’s the elderly, and particularly women.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.