Times Herald by SARAH FAY CAMPBELL Sunday, April 21, 2013
As the gun debate rages on, gun control advocates across the country say that the majority of Americans want more restrictions on guns.
But guns are very, very popular in Georgia and Coweta County. And that popularity has been growing.
The demand for firearms has been “relentless for about the past six months,” said Rob Mathis of The A.R. Bunker in Newnan. “The supply hasn’t caught up with demand yet.”
A big driver of the increased demand is debate about gun control on the federal level.
“Every time it comes on the news, it has just come in waves,” Mathis said.
Mathis estimated that about 60 of gun purchasers are buying because of concerns about gun control measures. “A lot of people think that their rights are going to be taken away from them,” he said.
But about 40 percent of the new buyers are first-time gun owners, or at least first-time handgun buyers.
Mathis estimated the number of first-time gun buyers has tripled in the past six months or so.
People who are buying guns for the first time “are afraid,” he said.
“They are seeing more and more crimes,” he said. “They have had their vehicles and homes broken into in board daylight.”
Gary DeGeorge of Atlanta Range and Ordnance, a new shooting range that also sells guns, sees much the same thing. People are definitely more into guns than they used to be.
“It is coming from changes in the community and the uptick in crime, where a neighbor down the street had their home broken into,” DeGeorge said. “And that finally gave them the final push to purchase a firearm to protect themselves,” he said. Or someone may buy a gun after having their car broken into.
“Crime is a big driver of it,” he said.
The demand for guns is matched, or even exceeded, by the demand for ammunition. Ammunition supplies have been tight for the past several years. “We have ammo, it is in stock, but it is very, very difficult to get right now.” A big reason is that “everybody is buying it,” DeGeorge said. Some people are buying it in bulk and then reselling it.
“There are many different theories out there of why it is so hard to get. Demand is unprecedented,” he said. And people are buying it up before the manufacturers have a chance to catch up.
DeGeorge said there was a period between 2007 and late 2009 when ammo was very difficult to get. The current shortage started about a year ago, he said.
Gun owners are a very diverse bunch. They gave gotten much more diverse in the past several years.
“When I started going to gun shows five or six years ago, the gun owners looked like me” — a middle aged white man, said Jerry Strange of Georgiacarry.org.
Strange was speaking Thursday to the newly-formed Newnan/South Atlanta chapter of The Well Armed Woman.
“Now when I go to a gun show or go to a gun store or go to a class to teach or talk, I see 18-year-olds, I see 80-year-olds. I see black, white, Asian, hispanic. I see male. I see female. I see groups of women, husbands and wives, moms and daughters,” Strange said.
“The face of the American gun owner is you,” Strange told the women, who were gathered at the gun range Thursday for their chapter meeting and some range time.
“It warms my heart to see… women get together, who want to shoot and learn and talk about things,” said Strange, who was there to give a presentation on state gun carry regulations.
The Well Armed Woman began several years ago in Arizona, and local chapters started this year. The Newnan/SouthAtlanta chapter formed in February and had its first meeting in March. They meet the second Thursday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m.
Chapter leader Jennifer Robison said the intent of the club is to have fun, and to educate and empower women shooters.
“We want you to know what you are doing,” she said. “If you ever have to pull that gun for any reason, we want you to know what you are doing.”
And they want women to have confidence knowing that they are not going to be victims, knowing that they can protect themselves and their children.
“I think it’s great. It’s very much needed in this community,” said Chris Seaman. Seaman was there with her sister-in-law, Barbara Seaman and their friend Barbara Lachey. All three have a Georgia Weapons Carry License, and they carry guns for personal protection.
Barbara Seaman is single and is out and about a lot after dark. She goes to Atlanta alone and that’s one reason she likes to have a gun.
Sandy Lee was looking forward to her range time as “stress relief.”
Lee said she has been shooting for about a year but has only felt really comfortable with her shooting in the past six months.
“I love it. I think it’s awesome,” she said of the Well Armed Woman chapter. She does practice drills with her guns to build her muscle memory all the time. Having better knowledge of guns “kind of takes the fear away,” she said.
Robison said they want to bring in “women of all ages, races, and backgrounds” and give them a comfortable setting to train.
“Coming into a range with a lot of men can be quite intimidating,” she said.
“We just want to bring all the women together, make it a fun environment so they can focus on the safety aspect. Safety is the top priority — every single meeting.”