By Nate Smith
WASHINGTON — Due to the ongoing debate about gun control, local gun owners and stores are doing big business ahead of upcoming legislation.
Locally, gun sales since both the Newtown school shooting and President Barack Obama’s executive actions to strengthen existing gun laws have boomed at two local gun stores.
“I’ve been in the business for 33 years and I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Gene Underhill, owner of Underhill’s Guns. “I can’t get any stock.”
Many of the customers are asking for assault-type rifles, according to Underhill. The assault rifle, namely the AR-15 and AK-47 types, have come under scrutiny since shooter Adam Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.
But since the shooting, there are no assault rifles to be found.
Keith Loughmiller, owner of Black Oak Armaments, had a couple AK-style assault rifles in his Montgomery-based shop and those are in short supply. He said people are coming in and asking for the assault rifles. All he can obtain are handguns and hunting rifles.
“I can’t hardly keep up with it,” Loughmiller said. “Recently, since what has been going on, it has been astronomical.”
And those that are for sale are fetching a high price, Underhill said.
“A rifle that used to sell for $1,000 is now going for $2,500 or more,” Underhill said.
“You couldn’t buy an AR-15 if you wanted to, unless you paid about three times what you should,” Loughmiller said.
Gun collectors are buying in preparation for an eventual showdown on assault weapons on the federal level, as Congress will soon debate an assault weapons ban similar to one introduced in 1994. Both gun store owners feel, like many, it is not the gun itself but the person behind it that needs addressing.
“All the rest of (the executive orders) are a violation of the Second Amendment,” Loughmiller said.
One of the facets of gun control that has been debated about is the gun show loophole that allows private sellers to sell guns without running background checks. Neither stores sell at gun shows.
Loughmiller believes in background checks for everyone wanting to purchase a gun, whether it be in his or another store or at a show.
“If someone can’t fill out a form and have me call it in, they don’t need to be owning a gun,” Loughmiller said.
The Washington Conservation Club has run a local gun show since the city parks department stopped doing a show four years ago. According to club officials, they plan to hold a show this year.
It is a requirement of the club's show that all gun sellers have a federal license and background checks are made for all gun buyers at the show.