BERLIN – The moment President Barack Obama stood in Washington and called for a “sense of urgency” in the fight against gun violence, Bob Arthur knew he was going to be getting very busy at his gun shop in Berlin.
Arthur, who owns Arthur’s Shooter Supply on Old Ocean City Boulevard outside Berlin, believes the president’s efforts to curb gun violence using executive order to expand background checks and step up the enforcement of existing gun laws, is sending people to gun shops both locally and nationally in big numbers.
Gun Sales Reach New Heights
“We’ve been really busy,” said Arthur. “What I’ve noticed lately is that people who have never even owned a gun are saying, ‘I better get my handgun license and get one before I can’t get a gun anymore’. There are just so many restrictions now. It’s ridiculous.”
Arthur isn’t alone when he says that he’s a busy gun shop owner.
The year 2015 finished with almost the highest month in gun sales in more than two decades as more than 1.6 million guns were sold in December nationwide. The only other time that gun sales were higher in one month was in January of 2012, just months after President Obama’s re-election and the Sandyhook school massacre in Connecticut.
Handgun sales made up the majority of those guns sold last month, according to a recent New York Times poll, but experts point to similar statistics that confirm the prevalence of fear-fueled purchases sparked by a significant event or tragedy. Simply put, while Obama may be the most progressive president in decades to take on the gun issue in America, the effort might be inadvertently driving gun sales up.
After Sept. 11, 2001, more than 750,000 guns were sold in the remaining part of that month. After Obama was elected in November 2008, 1.1 million guns were sold in that month alone. Last month, the combination of the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif. and the president’s reactionary comments about trying to make it harder to buy assault weapons in the wake of that tragedy, sent record numbers of people to gun shops.
“All of us should be able to work together to find a balance where the rest of our rights are also important,” said Obama earlier this week in Washington. “Second amendment rights are important but there are other rights that are important as well and we have to balance them.”
Gun advocates like Bob Arthur don’t see it that way.
“The ability for you to drive a car is a privilege, but the ability to own a gun is a right,” said Arthur. “It’s just like your ability to worship whatever God you want to or breathe air. That’s why the founding fathers put it down on paper. It’s a right to own a gun, and what the president is trying to do is nothing more than gun control. The government doesn’t want the peasants to have the guns.”
State Legislators React
Politicians across the country sent their public relations departments scrambling to release quick reactionary statements to the president’s efforts to curb gun violence, and here in Maryland, those politicians were expectedly split along party lines.
Republican Congressman Andy Harris, who represents Maryland’s District 1 here on the Eastern Shore, harshly criticized the president’s efforts, claiming it would be nothing more than an infringement on the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens and would do “nothing” to combat the “true origins” of gun violence.
“If the president was truly serious about protecting American lives he would get serious about the threat of terrorism,” said Harris. “I will continue to work to support the rights of every American under the Second Amendment and to resist what I believe are the many unilateral unconstitutional actions taken by the current administration.”
On the other hand, Democratic US Senator Ben Cardin not only voiced his support for the president’s efforts but called for Congress to get serious and enact what he called “commonsense legislation” that will reduce gun violence and save lives.
“The president should not have to go it alone,” said Cardin. “We have an epidemic in America and all of us need to deal with it in a sensible and commonsense way. Inaction is not an option.”
Cardin’s statement went on to highlight the 30,000 lives taken each year by guns in America, and stressed his belief that gun violence should not be looked at as an unfortunate reality in 2016.
“I do not accept gun violence as normal. None of us should,” he said. “We can protect the constitutional right of Americans to own guns while simultaneously recognizing that this right is not unlimited.”
‘This Type Of Thing Will Unfortunately Continue’
Back at Bob Arthur’s gun shop in Berlin on Tuesday, a middle aged couple inquired about each purchasing their first handgun.
They each cited safety and what they called the threat of added legislation about gun ownership as driving factors for their inquiry.
Arthur explained the lengthy process of taking the required classes, filling out of extensive paperwork, background checks and waiting periods already in place.
“From the time a new customer comes in and wants to buy a handgun, it will probably be at least two months before I actually can sell them one,” said Arthur.
Yet, despite Arthur’s obvious allegiance to gun advocacy, he says he does not support the actions taken by armed anti-government protestors in Oregon who have taken over a federal wildlife refuge.
“I think what those guys have done is wrong, but I truly believe that this type of thing will unfortunately continue,” said Arthur. “There are people who are scared, and they are buying guns like they are preparing for something.”
Larry Friedman, owner of Larry’s Trading Post LLC in West Ocean City, agrees with Arthur’s sentiment but stressed that the percentage of extreme doomsday gun owners are very small.
“It’s a split, and they all overlap,” he said. “Some people are scared so they buy a bunch of guns for protection, while others are buying guns to fill out their collections and others are buying up their guns for hunting purposes. Guns are like jewelry in a way because very few people only want to own one gun.”
Arthur and Friedman believe that the debate surrounding gun violence should focus less on the “guns” part of the term and more about the trend toward the committing of violent acts.
“One side believes we have too many regulations on the books already, and the other believes that we don’t have enough,” said Friedman. “The pro-gun side thinks our freedoms are being slowly stripped away, so we refuse to have any sort of debate whatsoever.”
Yet, while the perception is that gun rights could be taken away, the president is still vehemently trying to remedy the fact that during his seven years in office, there have been 162 mass murders in this country (defined as four or more murders during the same incident), which is a number that more than doubles the total of the four previous Presidents combined.
Arthur says despite the president’s efforts, the only thing that he expects to move on this issue, is the number of gun sales nationwide.