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Crossroads gun retailers struggle to meet demand

By Melissa Crowe
Jan. 12, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 12, 2013 at 7:13 p.m.

Ronal Mayes looks at a rifle at Victoria All-Sports Center. Mayes isn't too worried about stricter guns laws; he is more concerned with finding a bargain.

BY THE NUMBERS:

January: 96,394

February: 130,571

March: 122,295

April: 88,867

May: 88,027

June: 89,057

July: 93,179

August: 117,318

September: 108,117

October: 112,530

November: 149,821

December: 239,956

Source: 2012 records Federal Bureau of Investigations

Victoria weapons and ammunition retailers say sales are skyrocketing as enthusiasts stockpile supplies in preparation of possible gun restrictions.

Nationwide, gun sales have steadily increased during the past five years, particularly around the 2008 and 2012 elections and after mass shootings such as in the Colorado theater in July and in the Connecticut school in December.

In the dash to stock up on firearm sales, federal background checks to purchase firearms hit a 14-year record high nationally and in Texas, according to the FBI.

Darrell Hester, owner of Victoria All-Sports Center on Houston Highway, said it was a shame the Connecticut shooting spurred the sales.

"We noticed in November our sales were up. After that, it picked up some more," he said.

He, like many Victoria retailers, recently chose to ration sales. He said dwindling supplies across the nation show just how high the demand reaches.

"All the factories, all the distributors, they're all super busy," Hester said.

All-Sports limits ammunition sales to 100 rounds per purchase.

"Ammunition is hard to come by," Hester said. "We wanted to make sure everybody has a little bit."

Although holiday sales and end-of-the-year clearance play a small role in higher sales, Garrett Riedesel, owner of Double D Gun Shop on North Navarro Street, said the Obama administration's upcoming announcement is the culprit.

"It's big," he said. "People are talking about it."

He said his business has tripled since then.

While sales have increased, his prices have, too, but Riedesel said it is because distributors raised their prices.

A 30-round metal magazine went for $17 two weeks ago. Riedesel said the same product now costs $55.

Inventory is also dwindling.

"AR-15s or assault styles are nonexistent," Riedesel said. "It seems to be the case all over, even in San Antonio and Houston."

His selection of rifles is down to about a dozen, as is the case with handguns.

"We usually keep a lot of bulk ammunition," Riedesel said. "People can't keep up with the need for it."

Shoppers are noticing the increased demand as well.

Mike Sizemore, of Victoria, was in Austin when he noticed bare shelves at the big-box retailer Academy Sports and Outdoors.

"It's a basic supply and demand issue," Sizemore said.

He said the store was out of ammunition for automatic rifles and handgun rounds were running low.

While some people are hoarding, others could be turning a profit by gouging prices on hard-to-find accessories, Sizemore said.

Lance Orsak, 20, of Victoria, said he has heard rumors of people hoarding ammunition but has not seen it firsthand.

"It's been going on for the past couple of years," Orsak said. "Since Obama got elected, people have been buying ammo like crazy."

Last week, he went to The Armory and Academy Sports and Outdoors to purchase 12-gauge shotgun shells.

"The shelves are empty," Orsak said. "There were lots of people, but most weren't buying because (Academy) was out of stock."

He said the big trend is assault rifles - "everyone wants one."

However, demand has pushed sales nearly completely underground. The best way to find one is by word of mouth, Orsak said.

"By the time stores get them in, within an hour or two, they're all sold out," he said.

Larry Svetlik, owner of Hunter Supply on Chamrad Lane, said he has sold 60 rifles since the November election and has a waiting list 40 names deep.

"People are scared that a lot of this stuff is going to be banned," Svetlik said. "I hope it doesn't - not just for the good of my business but for the good of our country."

Since he opened in August 2007, business has been steady.

"Ammunition got scarce the first time (President Obama) got elected, now it's getting that way again," he said.

Svetlik called the gun reform issue "stupid."

"Banning guns is not the answer," Svetlik said. "The Second Amendment was not written for hunters. It's to protect us from tyranny."

The current laws and background checks are adequate and do not need reform, he said.

"If they can take all the guns, great. Stop everything," he said. "But they'll never get them all, and there's always a black market."

He believes banning guns comes down to a control issue.

Restricting high-capacity magazines or automatic rifles could be the government's "foot in the door" to banning all firearms, Svetlik said.

"They're not afraid of citizens shooting each other. It's one more way to exert force over your life," Svetlik said. "I don't think the laws need to be changed. They need to enforce the laws they have."

Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said, "Victoria is following the nationwide trend" of increased weapons and ammunition demands.

However, he said the police department has not seen any "significant increase" in the number of guns retrieved in stops or arrests.

While many supporters of gun rights, including Svetlik, say an armed community is a safe community, Craig said that is difficult to confirm.

"It depends on a number of factors: the training of the person or the ability of the weapon," he said.

State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, said gun control is an issue every session.

"A lot of times the issue is that people get frightened that someone will try to take their right away from them," Morrison said. "This has happened several times in recent history. There is a run on going to buy guns ... or ammunition."

She said legislators must be careful of any action that affects rights.

"I'm a big believer in Second Amendment rights," Morrison said. "I think that is something our forefathers fought for - the right to bear arms."

Morrison said the majority of national concerns are pointed at Congress and "what might be done as a knee-jerk reaction" to the mass shooting in December.

"Let's make sure that in these horrible tragedies have happened you don't go in and do something that takes away other people's rights," Morrison said. "We also want to make sure these tragedies don't happen again."

Don's Firearms and The Armory declined to comment for this story.

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