- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2013

President Obama helped spur a run on firearms and ammunition by people looking to stock up before proposed gun controls take effect — and the impact is being felt even in unlikely places. Like Russia.

And Serbia.

A scroll through the website of Midway USA, an online gun supply clearinghouse, shows scores of “Out of Stock, No Back Order” or “Unavailable — Seasonal Run” messages for certain types of munitions.

But Midway USA does list the Prvi Partizan Ammunition 7.62x54mm Rimmed Russian box of 20 rifle cartridges — manufactured in Serbia — as one of its most popular ammo products.

Even on the shelves at Wal-Mart stores, gun owners have spotted “brand names” such as Tulammo — which sells ammunition supplied from factories in Tula and Ulyanovsk in Russia — as overall demand for firearms and ammunition skyrockets and supplies dry up in the United States.

“Anything firearm-related is hard to get, hard to order, get it back on the shelf to stock for the customers,” said Donald Hood, the owner-manager of Battlefield Guns & Ammo in Chesapeake, Va. “It’s pretty much everything around the state and across the country.”

It’s even hit the nation’s largest retailer, which has resorted to limiting ammunition sales as manufacturers try to keep up with runaway demand.

“In order to take care of as many customers as possible, starting Thursday, Jan. 24, all ammunition sales were limited to three boxes per customer, per day as supply is limited at this time,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie said.

Further, the number of criminal checks for gun purchases run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System reached an all-time high of 2.78 million in December, with January a close second at 2.5 million, according to the FBI. Nine of the 10 all-time single-day highs and the top 10 single-week highs came after Mr. Obama’s re-election in November.

While those numbers don’t reflect the number of guns sold, they are a useful way for the industry to gauge demand.

Though there is certainly an exponential spike in checks confined to time periods in the past several months, the increase should not be attributed solely to Mr. Obama’s election and re-election. The numbers have increased every year from 2002, when there were 8.5 million, to 2012, when there were 19.6 million. Still, if January numbers are extrapolated for the rest of this year, there will be approximately 30 million this year — a greater percentage increase in one year than for the entire period from 1999 to 2012.

In addition to runs on ammunition and increased background checks, the National Shooting Sports Foundation released a report showing that hunting-related purchases have grown 55 percent since 2006.

“The major growth of spending by hunters is good news for businesses throughout the country, particularly small businesses in rural areas,” said foundation President and CEO Steve Sanetti.

But for people like Mr. Hood, the boom in business isn’t all good.

“There’s nothing I can put on my shelves, and the shelves are bare,” he said.

Like Wal-Mart, it has reached the point where he has had to ration certain kinds of ammunition as well. He said a vast number of customers he is seeing are first-time gun buyers who want to get their supplies before any of Mr. Obama’s more ambitious gun-control proposals take effect.

Mr. Obama has outlined a package of gun controls in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December that includes bans on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and strengthened background checks on gun purchases.

“They’re scared they’re not going to be able to get it anymore [and] it’s their right to be able to do so,” Mr. Hood said.

Mr. Obama’s administration has consistently emphasized that none of his proposals impinges on the Second Amendment or the Constitution, and that “gun grabs” or a national firearms registry are simply not going to happen.

“No one’s going to take my gun — no one’s going to take anyone’s gun,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who owns two shotguns, said this week.

“Now the question is, what is the balance between you having the right to defend yourself and the right to engage in sporting activities that are in fact totally legitimate and legal, and the kind of weapon that is outlawed?” said Mr. Biden, who also encouraged Americans to purchase shotguns rather than AR-15 semi-automatic rifles if they want to buy guns for self-defense. “We can argue about where that balance is, but there isn’t any argument that the government can, in fact, impact on that balance.”

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