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Aiming to Buy: As talk of gun control increases, so do sales

March 4, 2013

Luke Riddle (left) and Nick Wehrle of Mahoning Valley Milling in Punxsutawney are pictured with a Troy Industries AR-15 assault rifle, which is a sought-after gun due to proposed legislation on limiting gun sales. (Photo by Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Ready, aim, buy.

Due to the fear of guns being banned that has been stirred recently, many people are purchasing guns and ammunition at a rapid rate at area gun stores, according to those shop owners.

The owners have said that many of their customers are fearful of potential gun control legislation and a possible ban on both guns and ammunition.

Todd Peace, co-owner of Peace's Feed, Guns & Ammo at 300 East Main St. in Big Run, said much of his stock of handgun ammo, .223-calibur ammo and AK rifle rounds is selling out faster than he can order more in.

"It is hard to get rimfire ammo, such as for .22 long rifles. It is becoming more difficult to come by," Peace said, "It is difficult to get the AKs. I call distributors every day to try to get the hand guns and assault rifles (AR)s."

John Keeley, gun shop manager at Mahoning Valley Milling located at 318 Indiana St. in Punxsy, said that typically this time of year is slower in sales, but not this year.

"If you look at our counter over here, we don't have a quarter of the handguns that we normally have," Keeley said. "That's because people are buying everything that we have, and there's nothing in the market place to replace them with."

Keeley said people are purchasing handguns and semi-automatics, because they either think they are banned or will be banned in the near future.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there, and on top of that, they are purchasing all of the ammunition," he said.

"There's no 9 mm and virtually no handgun ammunition in the marketplace right now," Keeley said, adding that .22 long rifle ammunition is also in short supply.

"We received about 60,000 rounds of .22 ammunition last week, and it was gone in less than a day," he said.

Keeley said that there's no gun ban in effect, and its not even close to happening.

"The chances of any type of ban on any gun is not likely to happen," Keeley said. "I think, if anything, there might be additional background checks regarding mental health issues, which is where it needs to go."

He said even mental health checks can be scary, because who is to say who is sane and who is not.

"If someone has been treated for depression, does that mean they can't purchase a gun?" Keeley said. "There's a lot of gray area there."

Keeley said what he has been hearing through the gun industry is that these shortages will continue until the end of the year.

"Most of the big names in the industry have stopped taking orders for the year, because they don't believe they can fill the orders they have
now," he said.

Keeley said there are also a lot of women who've been coming in to purchase their first gun, and the shop employees try to steer them to what would best suit them.

"Many first-time gun buyers are worried about crime issues in the area, and not just the banning of firearms," Keeley said, adding that it is taking over an hour on the phone to perform background checks on gun buyers, when it normally takes five to 10 minutes.

Carl Gotwald, Sr., the owner of Groundhog Country Ammo & Arms on Route 36 in Punxsutawney and Jefferson County sheriff, said that even though he hasn't been open very much, he's received a lot of calls for ammunition.

"The price for ammo is out of this world. You can't get .22 shells, and handguns aren't available," Gotwald said, adding that he goes on to the wholesale sites where he purchases most of the guns for his shop, and there's nothing to be bought.

"Whatever I have in inventory is pretty much everything that I have to sell," he said. "As far as long guns (rifles and shotguns), they are sitting on the shelves, as no one is buying them unless you have ARs or something like that with a high-capacity magazine."

Gotwald said these sales have been driven because of panic that the government is going to pass a gun law that people can't own a certain firearm.

"I need a magazine for a Thompson machine gun, which is a 100-round drum," Gotwald said. "I called the company, and they don't know when they'll get any in, let alone send you something or fix what you have."

In his role as the Jefferson County Sheriff, Gotwald said his office processed 126 gun permits last January, compared to 359 permits processed in January of this year.

That includes a week that went by where deputies could not process permits because the system wasn't running.

"We were averaging 20 to 30 permits per day, so that's another 150 permits that, during that five days, weren't processed," Gotwald said, adding that there is a large rush for permits.

Meanwhile, he said, semi-automatics or anything with a high-capacity magazine are almost impossible to buy.

He said he received information on InstaCheck system that said since the Columbine shootings in April of 1999, through the end of January — there have been 2.5 million InstaChecks done, and those are just the legal transactions that have taken place.

Gun sellers and owners say a run on ammunition began shortly after President Barack Obama was re-elected and has intensified in the gun violence debate since the December mass shooting of 20 children and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn.

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