Gun advocates have been lining up at stores around the state as Congress contemplates extensive new restrictions on guns and ammunition.
The national call for gun control has grown louder in wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 young children and six others were killed. The shooter used an AR-15 assault rifle in the attack.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping, $500 million proposal that aims at curbing the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The president’s plan would also boost the requirements for background checks and close the so-called ‘gun show loophole.’
While many have praised Washington for looking at ways to reduce gun violence, gun advocates in West Virginia are skeptical about the president’s plans.
And as the state waits to see what happens in Congress, residents are stocking up.
At the Second Amendment Sports and Defense store in Morgantown Friday, nearly a dozen people were in line to buy weapons, ammunition and gun gear ahead of any new regulations.
“There’s kind of a run on everything with the changes that are going to be made in the next few months,” said Tim Phillips, of Mt. Morris, Pa. who was buying ammunition and a training DVD.
A torrent of business has made its way to gun stores as residents fear there will be regulations on the guns like the AR-15 and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets at a time. The increased demand has spiked prices and raised concern among gun enthusiasts about future prices going even higher.
With those laws of economics in mind, gun owners have flocked to local stores to buy ammunition and weapons before the supply is sucked dry.
“They’ve put everybody in a panic and everyone is coming out to get things that they normally would be able to find, but are getting hard to find,” Phillips said.
Store workers say the last few weeks have been the busiest time they’ve seen in years. Assault weapons, handguns, and shotguns have been flying off the shelves, they say. Customers have also purchased extended magazines and military-grade rifles.
Gregory Gutta, who owns the Second Amendment Store, says more than two dozen people have waited outside the store in the morning before opening on several occasions.
Last month, Gutta reported he sold nearly 60 guns in one day. His sales had been so rapid that on several days he’s sold more guns than he’s typically sells in an entire week.
“People are scared to death,” Gutta told WAJR previously. “It’s creating a drive on the market. I’ve never seen anything like this before.
Another customer, who identified himself as Dustin from Fairmont, said he and his wife had recently received concealed carry permits. He said he was against any further actions aimed at regulating guns and ammunition.
“I’m a follower of the Constitution, so I believe in the Second Amendment,” he said. “I don’t think they have a right to take guns, put limits on ammunition, clips, anything like that.”
Not all gun advocates are against action in Washington. Phillips said he favors a focus on mental health and background checks, even at local gun shows.
“If they stick with the more background checks, checks at gun shows, and checks for any firearm, not just a handgun, I think that would be sufficient in making things safer,” he said.
Still, Phillips doesn’t want any restrictions on the number of bullets in a magazine.
“The more bullets I have in a magazine, the better chance I have of hitting the target,” he said.
Most of West Virginia’s congressional delegation has been critical of President Obama’s plans. Only Sen. Jay Rockefeller said the plan was “a strong, comprehensive plan to protect our citizens from gun violence.”