FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. – The way Jay Chambers sees it, the semiautomatic weapons in his firearm collection might be the most promising investment in his financial portfolio.
Like many gun enthusiasts, Mr. Chambers, a manager for a door wholesaler here, believes President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress soon will reimpose a version of an expired federal ban on the sale of so-called assault weapons. If such a law passes, he figures his collection — enough guns, ammo magazines and weapon parts to assemble about 30 AK-47s, AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles — could triple in value.
"A guy could easily make a lot of money," says Mr. Chambers, 47 years old, while at Autrey's Armory, a gun store about 20 miles south of Atlanta.
Purchases of guns and ammunition are surging across the country. Nearly four million background checks — a key measure of sales because they are required at the purchase of a gun from a federally licensed seller — were performed in the first three months of 2009. That is a 27% increase over the same period a year earlier, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
No one knows exactly what is behind the gun-buying craze. Some buyers say they are stocking up for themselves in anticipation of new gun-control laws, while others say they're worried about deteriorating public safety as the economy worsens.
But it's also clear that part of the gun-buying rally is driven by people like Mr. Chambers who are buying weapons the way others invest in a hot stock. The buying is pumping up prices. Many popular models of guns are back-ordered for a year or more. Some manufacturers are operating plants 24 hours a day. According to the 2009 edition of the Blue Book of Gun Values, the average price of European-made AK-47s — the famous Soviet-era military weapon now made in several countries — doubled from $350 last September to more than $700 by the end of 2008.