A hard-hitting propaganda campaign unleashed this year by Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, may be convincing Americans that President Obama will crack down on gun ownership if he’s re-elected and becomes a lame duck.
Skyrocketing sales of guns and ammunition, along with some shortages due to stockpiling, are reported by many U.S. shops.
“People are worried about a second Obama presidency,” Simon Wallace, sales manager at Merchant Firearms in Phoenix told Hatewatch. Merchant is one of many gun shops that started seeing demand increase around the first of the year. There are shortages of all types of weapons and ammunition, Wallace said.
One sign of the current panic is the number of FBI background checks for prospective gun owners. The background checks hit an all-time high in 2011 – about 16.5 million. In the first four months of this year, according to the FBI, there were about 6.3 million checks – on track to shatter last year’s record.
The background checks don’t reflect the exact number of firearms purchased, but in most cases the individuals who submit to the checks will buy guns, said Mike Molchan, a spokesman for the Professional Gun Retailers Association, a trade group for gun shop owners.
“There’s a lot of free-floating fear,” Molchan said in an interview with Hatewatch. “At one end of the spectrum, you have the survivalists and the stockpiling.”
Molchan has heard customers talk about a fear that the Obama administration could hike the excise tax on new firearms and ammunition from 10% to as high as 50%. “As an association, we’re very concerned. I think there’s a high probability he’ll do that, so people are getting their guns now.”
David Schrank of Smoke ‘N Gun in Waukegan, Ill., told Hatewatch that a lot of guns are now difficult to find. “We’re not meeting the current demand,” he said.
“We’re selling more ammunition and more of everything since around February.”
And it’s not just the older gun “regulars” leaping on board. More new, first-time customers in their 20s and 30s are buying weapons, said Daniel R. (he declined to give his last name), sales manager at Dave’s Guns in Spokane. “It was like a light switch turned on in January,” he told Hatewatch.
It could be no coincidence that the surge started early this year. That was about when LaPierre – at times accused even by supporters of going off the deep end with his anti-Obama, fear-fanning rhetoric – began a relentless drumbeat of messages, warning online and in personal appearances that the Second Amendment would become history if Obama wins re-election.
In a widely viewed YouTube interview, LaPierre calls the fall election “probably the most dangerous election in our lifetime for the Second Amendment. It could break the back of the Second Amendment. We need to be out there defending freedom.”
In another speech widely circulated by the NRA media operation, he referred to “the Obama administration’s clear intent, once freed from the political restriction of a first term, to assault the Second Amendment.” In a recent NRA report, LaPierre called the media’s alleged softness on Obama’s purported plan to demolish gun rights “the biggest cover-up since Watergate.” And in a February speech he hit hard on “a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intention to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.”
On the NRA website, in a February message headlined “All or Nothing Election for the Second Amendment,” LaPierre warned that an Obama victory would mean the right to bear arms “could well perish in a Supreme Court heartbeat.”
This isn’t the first time LaPierre has ginned up his own brand of terror in trying to recruit members for the NRA and his political agenda. In the run-up to the 2008 election, he joined in a similar campaign dubbed “Prepare for the Storm in 2008” that also jacked up gun sales and was mentioned by some current shop managers.
Of course, Obama has done nothing to restrict gun rights and has not mentioned any plans to do so.