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Gun sales explode as election looms

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Aug. 17: A man carries a military style AR-15 rifle during an Obama opposition rally in Phoenix. (The Arizona Republic/AP)

Sales of handguns and ammunition are booming across the country, and retailers say it’s all about the November election.

Gun shop owners around the nation told FoxNews.com that sales, brisk ever since President Obama was elected, have spiked upward in recent months. And manufacturers are having so much trouble keeping up with the demand that one, Sturm, Ruger & Co., can’t keep up with demand. The Southport, Conn.-based company has had to suspend new orders after taking orders for more than 1 million guns in the first three months of the year. Smith & Wesson sales are way up, as well.

Gunmakers' stock soars

“Sales usually increase this time of year with tax returns, but this year has been higher than most,” Mike Weeks, owner of Georgia Gun Store in Gainesville told FoxNews.com. “People are scared their gun rights are going to be curtailed after the election."

Weeks said his sales are up around 30 percent, and that he now sells ammo by the case.

“Usually people come in to buy three or four boxes for target practice. Now they are coming in asking what kind of deals they could get on a case,” he said.

Industry experts and gun shop owners alike say the factor driving gun sales is the Nov. 6 election. There was a similar spike before President Obama was elected to his first term, and many gun buyers are saying they fear Obama’s re-election could mean more regulations on firearms. Obama famously told fundraisers in 2008 that many Americans “cling to guns or religion,” and gun enthusiasts believe he is not fully behind the Second Amendment.

“It’s definitely the election year," Jason Hanson, a former CIA officer and personal security specialist, told FoxNews.com. "People feel that Obama will serve second term and with it their gun rights with taken away, so they are stocking up.

“They’re also worried that the economy is not getting any better and that they need to protect themselves,” Hanson added.

In 2009, gun sales had shot up after Obama took office and firearm enthusiasts rushed to stores, fearing he would tighten gun control. Sales have continued to grow throughout his administration.

This year’s uptick comes on top of a record 2011, when nearly 11 million firearms were sold in the U.S., according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. The group notes the $4 billion firearms business has bucked the weak economy, with robust sales since 2008.

One of the best indicators of firearms sales is the FBI's National Instant Background Check System, which federally licensed firearm retailers use to conduct the mandatory background check on purchasers of new and used firearms. Statistics through December showed an unprecedented 19th straight month of background check increases when tabulated year over year. "Black Friday," Nov. 25, 2011, saw a record for the most background checks in a single day --129,166.

Another strong indicator comes from Wall Street. Smith& Wesson shares are up a whopping 125 percent over the past year, while Sturm, Ruger’s are up about 112 percent. Even Taser, which makes non-lethal weapons, has seen its sales surge.

“It’s been a strong cycle. Sales of tactical rifles have been extremely strong,” Bret Jordan, a stock analyst specializing in the firearms market, told FoxNews.com, “Personal handguns have had a steady rise since 2008. The kind of stuff that fits in the waistband for when someone tries to steal your gas can.”

“There’s a lot of speculation that the Second Amendment will be affected by the next presidential term. There was one investors call and an executive was asked what he thought would happen if Obama was elected a second term and he said, ‘No one in the gun industry will tell you they like Obama, but everyone will vote for him,’” he said implying that a second Obama term would be good for continued business.

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said he is skeptical of claims that firearms sales are way up. But he said the gun industry does work to promote that perception.

"There's no doubt [National Rifle Association President] Wayne LaPierre is out there every day saying that President Obama has a secret plan to take away your guns," Horwitz said. "They want to gin up sales."

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