The people flooding area shops and gun shows to stock up on firearms say theyre driven not by the fear of another mass shooting but by the fear of what gun restrictions federal lawmakers may enact.
Theyre afraid theyre not going to be able to get anything, said Cindy Pratt-Carol, a manager at Impact Guns in Boise.
Her store each day has been selling one or two military-style rifles because one or two is all I have. Waiting lists for some brands are several names deep, though Pratt-Carol said some people were waiting even before the shooting in Newtown, Conn., a month ago.
A gun show in Boise last weekend reported record attendance and a gun show preparing for its 50th anniversary in April is hoping for similar sales. Meanwhile, applications for concealed weapons permits in Ada County also are increasing, said Andrea Dearden, spokeswoman for the Ada County Sheriffs Office.
The boom reflects a national trend as the Obama administration is set to outline new gun control proposals Tuesday that include restrictions on the sales of military-style weapons like AR-15, AK-47 and SKS, and on high-capacity magazines.
After a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dicks Sporting Goods removed military-style weapons a version of which was used in Newtown from all stores, including its Meridian location. But no other national store appears to have followed.
Jason Hopper, co-owner of the Boise Gun Co., said his store has seen more people buying just about everything in his store.
It happens generally when they start saying theyre going to curtail our freedom in some way, Hopper said, referring to possible new government action.
The store also has a waiting list for AR-15 style rifles: Were just getting them where we can and when we can.
Pratt-Carol compared the spike in sales to the increase experienced when President Obama was elected in 2008. Similar sales have been reported at gun shops in Southeastern Idaho.
Customers are no longer mostly longtime firearm enthusiasts, she said, but new purchasers concerned mostly with buying a firearm before new restrictions.
They just dont want to not be able to have it, Pratt-Carol said.
But from a business standpoint, she said, the boom isnt always a good thing. A surge in demand pushes up prices, which could spell problems for long-term business.
Prior to the craze, (AR-15s) would be under $1,000. You would be lucky to find anything at that price now, Pratt-Carol said. Then what happens after a spike? A big drop.
And new purchasers arent necessarily investing in the educational classes and training that helps sustain business like Impact Guns, which has an indoor shooting range.
Pratt-Carol said its difficult to predict when the boom will cease.
I would venture to guess its going to depend on what decisions are made (about federal gun control), she said. Theres just a huge fear about what will happen, and anything fear-driven, its not going to be what you want to see.
Impact Guns has seen more people sign up for concealed handgun classes, but thats something the business has long promoted. Pratt-Carol said classes at Impact Guns train people in different areas of self-defense, including how to use pepper spray and stun guns.
I dont want my only two options to be, I do nothing or I kill somebody, and we talk about that here all the time, she said.
Im an educational advocate, so my view is theres never enough training.
General interest in guns, particularly AR-15s, has increased so much that Pratt-Carol said shes had to turn off the phone so her employees can concentrate on helping in-store customers.
Id have to hire two or three more people just to answer the phones, she said.
Calls from people looking for AR-15 or other military-style guns also have increased at Vista Pawn Shop on State Street in Boise, said assistant manager Carla Ephraim.
One problem: the store doesnt carry them.
People who collect them and use them for target practice, theyre worried they wont be able to get them, Ephraim said.
Arnold Burr, a Meridian man organizing the 50th anniversary of the Fort Boise Gun Show in April, said he shot assault rifles while in the 1960s in the military and I believe thats where they should be, but everybody has a right to have what they want.
If thats their desire, they should have a right to do it, he said.
Burr said dealers sell military-style rifles at his shows and will continue to do so. He said the true problem with shootings in the United States lies in a lenient criminal justice system and judges who are unwilling to be tough and enforce laws.
Hes got a solution to deal with killers who use guns: Lets give them 90 days to do an appeal, then on the 91st day, give them a shot in the arm.
Meghann M. Cuniff: 377-6418