Our investigation into the gun debate in America over the past week led us to several local dun dealers whose showcases were, surprisingly, empty.
Sales of guns and ammo have skyrocketed in the U.S. as panic-buying spreads across the country. Dave Peterson, a gun dealer at Greenville Outfitters, tells us, "everybody is buying every gun they can. Gun prices have doubled, tripled, quadrupled. Ammunition prices have doubled, tripled, quadrupled. And the availability of them, you can't get them, they're just not around."
Manufacturers are nine to 18 months behind in production. Brownells, the world's largest supplier of gun parts, offered an apology to customers. Company president Pete Brownell blogs, "The demand for magazines actually exceeded the ability for the system to keep up with the volume that was being ordered."
Even retail giant Walmart is limiting ammunition sales. Customers can only get three boxes of ammo a day, including here in the Tri-Cities. There’s no limit on how many guns you can buy, but finding the one you want is getting more difficult.
Normally when you come into a gun dealer, like Shooter's Edge in Piney Flats, the showcases are full of hundreds of guns. But ever since what they're calling the 'perfect storm' of the November election, holiday shopping, and the massacre at Sandy Hook, most of these cases are empty.
As a matter of fact, gun sales broke a record on Black Friday in November -- which was before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.
According to gun retailers, the shootings there and in Colorado did tip the scales for some. Mike Lewis, head trainer for Shooters Edge, says, "We've had an increase in people who are straddling the fence, who thought, ‘I never thought I’d be buying a gun, and here I am buying a gun.’"
A growing number of first-time buyers are women. Robin Widener teaches police science, and she's also a self-defense instructor. "Several ladies will come to me and ask if they should get a gun. I say, 'only if you're comfortable with it,'" she said. "Usually, especially in homicides, a woman buys gun, then someone attacks, and get her gun away from her and use it against her."
Widener says, the most important part of buying a gun is learning how to use it.