Buyers in record numbers are flooding into gun stores, retailers say. Ammo, too, is flying off the shelves. The reasons for the spike, last seen in 2009, include fears that a second Obama administration might restrict gun ownership and the popularity of TV shows devoted to doomsday preparation and killing zombies.
"He's never been pro-gun," says Cris Parsons of President Obama. Parsons, 31, owns a Texas gun purveyor called the Houston Armory. So far, Parsons insists, Obama has been "pretty coy" about his antipathy toward guns--and he likely will remain so during the campaign. To do otherwise would "upset a lot of people."
But if Obama wins a second term, he'll have "nothing to lose," says Parsons.
Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws, including "Gun Laws of America," says gun owners are worried that the president, as a lame duck, will clamp down as never before on gun ownership.
Parsons says about 40 percent of Armory customers cite this fear as their reason for stocking up on guns and ammo now, before the election.
"Frenzy" is the word he uses to describe their buying. Dollar sales for the Armory are up 30 to 40 percent this quarter compared to last. Parsons thinks his store's performance is indicative of sales nationally, based on what he hears from dealers, suppliers and other store owners.
Gun maker Sturm, Ruger says that in the first quarter it received orders for more than 1 million firearms--so many that it has now had to stop taking orders. Says a notice on its website: "Despite the company's continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders. Consequently, the company has temporarily suspended the acceptance of new orders." It expects to resume accepting orders, it says, at the end of May.
Stocks of gun makers are surging. Sturm, Ruger's share price is up 55 percent this year. Smith & Wesson soared 91 percent. Sporting goods and hunting retailer Cabela's is up 53 percent.
Other forces besides politics, though, explain the current boom. "There're the 'preppers," explains Parsons, "and then there's this whole Zombie Apocalypse thing."
He refers to two hot trends in popular culture.
The first is a National Geographic TV show called "Doomsday Prepers" that chronicles the preparations being made by people convinced that a doomsday of some kind is coming. A whole industry has sprung up to sell preppers survival and self-dense goods, including guns and ammo.
Then there are zombies--zombie movies, zombie comics, zombie novels, zombie TV shows. Americans' fascination with all things zombie, Parsons says, has grown to such proportions that arms manufactures now have come out with zombie-specific firearms and ammo. Products include a line of Zombie Max ammunition (slogan: "just in case") made by Hornady Manufacturing. "We can't keep it in stock," says Parsons. "It comes in a cool, colorful box with a Zombie on it."
There are more than a dozen manufacturers, says Parsons, making zombie riffles, some with a picture of a zombie on them The two position on a zombie rifle's safety, instead of being marked "safe" and "fire," are labeled "dead" and "undead."
Gun maker DPMS Panther Arms is taking sign-ups now for its fifth annual zombie shoot, "Outbreak: Omega" set for June 23. "DPMS' Outbreak: Omega," says the company's website, "is the Original Zombie Shoot, and the largest. It is a non competitive 3-gun style fun shoot. All are invited to come and try your hand at killing Zombies. Tons of Prizes...followed by a HUGE after party!"
Attendees don't actually shoot Zombies, which, last we heard, don't actually exist. They shoot targets that are zombie stand-ins.
Says Parsons, summing up the reasons for record gun sales, "You got zombies, you got 'preppers, and you got Obama."