Published: Monday, March 30, 2009
By JOHN M. ROMAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
Law-abiding gun owners are making sweet sounds for gun shop owners, with sales skyrocketing along with applications for gun permits in the county over concerns President Barack Obama may set his sights on stiffer gun laws after focusing on the economy.
“Sales have been going through the roof,” said Tom Milowicki, owner of the largest gun shop/shooting range in Delaware County in Chadds Ford. He and other gun shop operators say gun and ammunition supplies are tight because of the demand and other factors.
Obama has vowed to protect gun ownership rights, but as an Illinois state lawmaker, he supported a ban on all forms of semiautomatic weapons and tighter restrictions on firearms.
Applications for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms concealed, commonly called a gun permit, at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office increased 21.5 percent the first two months of this year, compared to the same period last year. There were 781 permit approvals in January-February 2009 compared to 613 for the same months last year, an increase of 168 permits.
Of the 392 applications in January of this year, six, or 2.6 percent, were denied, while another 11 licenses were revoked, according to data provided by the Sheriff’s office.
Of the 389 applications in February, 13 were denied and another six licenses were revoked. Also, two applicants were refused because of protection from abuse orders filed against them.
Of the 304 applications in March through March 20, 13, or 3.7 percent, were denied, while another three licenses were revoked. For the whole month of March 2008, there were 293 approvals.
In 2008, there were 3,269 applications, of which 78, or 2.5 percent, were denied. There were 23 revocations and eight applicants who were refused because of protection from abuse orders.
Of the total applications in 2008, 1,875, or 57 percent, were new or first-time applications, according to Sheriff Joseph F. McGinn.
McGinn said that from the general feedback he’s heard, there’s been some concern about possible gun restrictions under the Obama administration, but he hasn’t heard anyone say he or she was applying for a permit because Obama won the presidency.
People are primarily interested “in maintaining the status quo,” said McGinn, a Republican who has been sheriff since September 2003.
A recent Franklin & Marshall College poll of Pennsylvanians indicated 66 percent favored and 31 percent opposed limiting the purchase of handguns to one per month per person. McGinn said one man expressed concern about some day not being allowed to buy three or four guns at a gun show to add to his collection.
“That was the only concern I heard about one a month,” he said. “I don’t think anybody feels restricted.”
About 800 people participated in the sheriff’s gun safety program in 2008, McGinn said.
His office also sends out a gun-safety pamphlet for permit holders with tips on gun safety in the home and precautions with children in the home.
Milowicki, range owner and CEO of Targetmaster Gun Shop & Gun Range, on U.S. Route 202 in Chadds Ford, said, “All (firearms) supplies are in great demand.” Everything from handguns to shotguns and their respective ammo have gone up “at least 35 percent since January.”
He attributes this rise in sales directly “to the election of President Obama and his attorney general’s statement to reinstate the assault weapons ban first enacted by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, which then also caused sales to skyrocket.
Milowicki also attributed the increased sales to more than 17 proposed anti-gun bills in federal, state and local government jurisdictions.
“I predicted a problem last summer with supplies and placed orders back then to alleviate the pressure of delivery,” Milowicki said.
“It’s unfair to law-abiding gun owners to have to pay exorbitant rates for ammunition, in addition to little or no availability,” he said.
“One gun a month won’t work — it’s against the Constitution,” Milowicki said. He added it will prohibit collectors from buying matched sets with consecutive serial numbers, and slow down, if not prohibit, out-of-state transfers and auctions.
“Firearms regulations should be under the control of the state and federal government as they are now,” he said.
A random survey of gun owners last week waiting to use the 15-lane, indoor firearm range — which had a 15-minute wait at lunchtime — showed no support for further gun-control laws.
“Every time the Democrats come in office, gun sales usually go up because they usually start talking about more restrictions on certain types of weapons,” said Frank, 65, of Claymont, Del., who withheld his last name.
He said he’s been a gun enthusiast since he was 16 and mostly does target shooting. He added he was too old to go hunting anymore because of arthritis.
A 20-year National Rifle Association member, he said, “I believe it’s a natural right for any person to defend their life and property.”
Kent Porterfield, 64, of Springfield, an Army veteran and medic during the Vietnam War era, was with a friend waiting to use the firing range with two smaller-caliber pistols.
“I’m sure they’ll try and tighten the (gun) laws,” he said. “I’m hoping the NRA will protect my Second Amendment rights.
“I think the current laws are not enforced — we don’t need tougher gun laws,” Porterfield said. “We need to punish the criminals that are using guns for crimes.”
Bob, of West Grove, Chester County, said after he retired he moved from New Jersey, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.
Shortly after he moved here, he applied for a gun permit at the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, “simply because I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to.”
The last time he was at the gun shop he bought a .40-caliber Glock pistol for self-defense. “The way things are going (with the economy), you just don’t know.
Joseph J. Galiano, owner of The Suburban Armory on MacDade Boulevard in Collingdale, said his sales have been up since the presidential election.
“Customers are afraid they won’t be able to get guns for self-defense after these laws might be passed,” Galiano said.
One day last week he tried to order guns and ammo from his main supplier and “he had nothing to offer me in stock.”
Mike Coogan, of the Drexel Hill section of Upper Darby, said he was helping to close down Dom DiPlacido’s guns hop on Lincoln Avenue in Prospect Park after the longtime owner died in January. The shop has been in operation since 1972 and is expected to close this summer, he said.
“Not just here, everywhere, ammo is tough to get,” Coogan said. “It’s anything that people feel will fall under any ban under the new administration.”
He also cited the declining number of federally licensed gun shops in the area such as Gordon’s in Marple and the Gun Craft Shop in Ridley Township.
“Basically, when Obama got elected, everything (sales) went through the roof,” Coogan said.
State Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore, an Army veteran of the Iraq war and former Philadelphia prosecutor, said he supports gun ownership as a gun owner and lifelong hunter.
“There is no reason for lawful gun owners to make a run on the market because of fear they will lose the right to purchase and own firearms under President Obama,” Lentz said.
He said that one-gun-per-month is a “common sense idea” to reduce the flow of illegal handguns and bulk purchases by straw buyers.
Although he said enabling local jurisdictions to make their own gun laws would be an ineffective hodgepodge, he believes cities like Philadelphia and Chicago where murder and gun violence is epidemic “should be given some leeway to try and stop the mayhem.”
State Rep. Stephen E. Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, said, “sportsmen and people who believe American citizens’ right to own a gun is in serious jeopardy … don’t believe the Democrat controlled Congress and President Obama will protect their rights guarantee under the Second Amendment and recently confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
They believe new restrictions will be passed by Congress that will make it more difficult if not impossible for them to own a gun and buy ammunition, Barrar said.
One-gun-a-month has been tried in other states and there is no evidence this restriction can reduce or has reduced gun violence, Barrar said.
“Laws that give criminals longer sentences or life without parole and not granting parole to repeat violent offenders has proven to be the best deterrent to gun violence,” he said.
Barrar said he strongly opposes any preemption by Philadelphia of gun laws already on the books. “The Philadelphia judges have a soft-on-crime attitude and refuse to uphold the state gun laws that require tougher penalties for committing crimes with a gun.”