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by Jim Shepherd Editor, TheOutdoorWire.com

Obama named ‘Gun Salesman of the Year’(Part 1)

In recognition of the unprecedented demand for firearms by nervous consumers, The Outdoor Wire has named President Barack Obama its “Gun Salesman of the Year.” For me, it was a simple fact of recognizing that, without Obama frightening consumers into action, the firearms industry might be suffering the same sort of business slumps that have befallen the automotive and housing industries.

It’s credit where credit is due. Mr. Obama has consistently voted against individual rights to firearms, appointed a re-tread Clinton administration full of gun banners and made it plain to anti-gun groups that, despite what he might say to the contrary, he’s on their side.

That history, along with the unquestioned support of anti-gun organizations, has spooked consumers into a buying frenzy for firearms that could be outlawed in another Assault Weapons Ban (AWB).

Manufacturers are months behind on orders for semi-automatic pistols, AR-style rifles and anything with so-called “high-capacity” magazines. Buyers we’ve surveyed across the U.S. seem to have a single explanation for their rush to purchase firearms – Obama.

The buying panic is not limited to people who might be described as “aficionados” or even “gun nuts.” Recently, I was in a gun store when a gentleman came in and said he’d never wanted to own a gun before, but wanted to get one now “while he still could.”

Since the November election, firearms sales have been at unprecedented levels. For December 2008 the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) recorded a 24% increase in background checks (1,523,426) over December 2007 (1,230,525).

This follows a 42% increase in November 2008 – the highest number of NICS checks in the system’s history. Those FBI background checks are required under federal law for all individuals purchasing firearms from federally-licensed firearms retailers. In other words, gun sales have never been better.

Sales are so good that on Jan. 6, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a notice to all federal firearms licensees that “an unprecedented increase in demand” for ATF Form 4473 had run supplies low enough that dealers were temporarily given permission to photocopy the form until supplies caught up with demand.

As a journalist with more than two decades of national news-gathering experience, I’ve never seen anything approaching what some call the “Obama effect.” In fact, gun and ammunition sales are at such frantic levels that they have surpassed the panic-buying level of Y2K or anything during the Clinton years when the first AWB was passed.

This time concerned consumers are buying guns and ammunition in anticipation of Obama administration actions to prohibit certain types of firearms. In 1999, the fear was that computers would shut down, crippling the world. Those fears were unfounded. I don’t think the fears of an Obama administration banning guns are unfounded.

His record speaks for itself. He’s never failed to support an anti-gun measure, despite saying he supports the Second Amendment. Moves to prohibit firearms sales would drastically impact a billion-dollar industry that is not only healthy, but pours more than $150 million dollars annually into conservation programs through an 11% tax collected on guns and ammo. The Pittman-Robertson Act provides the vast majority of funding for wildlife agencies at the federal, state and local levels, and that money comes directly from the tax levied against gun owners.

Damaging the firearms industry won’t just put workers in the gun business out of work, it will severely impact wildlife and conservation efforts nationally. That damage could take decades to repair – if it can be undone.

Choosing Obama as the “Gun Salesman of the Year” is a lot like a good-news, bad-news joke. His election has driven gun sales into the stratosphere, but his opposition to guns and gun ownership may be the biggest threat the industry has ever faced.

If he puts scoring political points with anti-gun groups ahead of economic realities, he will be deliberately putting thousands of people out of work. I don’t see that as an economic stimulus plan with much of a future.

Today, the facts are indisputable. Barack Obama has spurred gun sales in a time when the entire economy seems to be tanking. If that doesn’t make him the gun salesman of the year – if not the decade – I don’t know what would.

Tune in next month for Part II of Jim Shepherd’s column: The feedback and fall-out from naming Obama “Gun Salesman of the Year.”