Atkinson, owner of AAA Pawn and Jewelry in Anniston, said the process of reaching an operator at the FBI to run a check on a customer wanting to buy a firearm used to take only a minute. But that was before gun sales started soaring in early 2013, as a fear of a federal crackdown on gun ownership led people in droves to pawn shops, gun shows and sellers across the country.
“It’s still about the same,” Atkinson said Wednesday, comparing sales in his store to the level they were at a year ago. “They’re still talking about federal gun regulations, and people are still buying guns. Twenty-one minutes to get an operator. I think that tells you things are still pretty backed up.”
According to FBI statistics from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, 52,138 firearm background checks were conducted in Alabama in January. That’s down slightly from the 52,210 in January 2013, but still well more than the 28,358 conducted in January 2012.
Alabama isn’t the only state where gun sales are still high. The state’s 6 percent drop in background checks between last month and January 2013 placed it behind only Kentucky and Maryland – the only two states that have seen increases in gun sales compared to this time last year.
Mike Burdett, owner of Mike’s Treasure Chest in Anniston, told The Star in November he was gearing up for a relatively slow Christmas season after a crazy 2013. Instead, guns just kept selling.
“I don’t know what it was, but they just picked up,” Burdett said Tuesday. “I guess people are just worried about all the crime.”
And maybe not so worried about a price tag, at least not anymore, Burdett said.
When gun sales begin picking up across the country, the AR-15 assault weapon – similar to the one used in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December of 2012, prompting fears of stricter federal regulations on gun ownership – was all the rage, Burdett said. Large-capacity ammunition magazines for the weapon were flying out of stores faster than companies could manufacture them. Last year the AR-15 retailed for as much as $2,000. Today, Burdett said, a customer could pick one up for $600.
“When Obama stopped talking, the price dropped,” said Richard Patty, owner of Shotgun Sports Supply Company in Anniston, who said he’s still selling as many guns as he was last year.
According to Patty, though, people aren’t still in the market for the AR-15s and similar assault weapons. In the last several months, rifles and pistols have once again become the main seller, he said, meaning people are less concerned about stricter federal guidelines as they are about just protecting themselves.
In December 2012, the FBI performed the highest number of background checks recorded in Alabama with 80,576. Seven months in 2013 rank in the top 10, while November of 2012 comes in sixth, and last month eighth.
The statistics from the FBI do not factor in sales between private owners which do not require a background check. They also do not take into consideration that multiple guns can be purchased on one check.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.