Before Election Day, the NRA was doing what it always does: Raising the specter of the liberal bogeyman -- you know, the Incipient Dictator Who Want
November 12, 2008

Before Election Day, the NRA was doing what it always does: Raising the specter of the liberal bogeyman -- you know, the Incipient Dictator Who Wants To Take Your Guns Away -- in the person of Barack Obama. See, for instance, this ad.

So it shouldn't really be a big surprise that, after the election, one of the only segments of the retail economy that did well was in guns:

Weapons dealers in much of the United States are reporting sharply higher sales since Barack Obama won the presidency a week ago.

Buyers and sellers attribute the surge to worries that Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress will move to restrict firearm ownership, despite the insistence of campaign aides that the president-elect supports gun rights and considers the issue a low priority. Video Watch shoppers snap up guns of all types »

According to FBI figures for the week of November 3 to 9, the bureau received more than 374,000 requests for background checks on gun purchasers -- a nearly 49 percent increase over the same period in 2007. Conatser said his store, Virginia Arms Company, has run out of some models -- such as the AR-15 rifle, the civilian version of the military's M-16 -- and is running low on others.

Such assault weapons are among the firearms that gun dealers and customers say they fear Obama will hit with new restrictions, or even take off the market.

There is also a racial component to these fears, which surfaces in attitudes like those voiced in this NYT piece about the decline of the South's political influence:

"I am concerned," Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. "The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage."

"I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks," she added. "From where I'm from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive."

But mostly, this is paranoia about gun ownership whipped up by the NRA:

The NRA believes Mr. Obama would restrict handguns and raise taxes on ammunition, effectively quintupling the cost of bullets.

"Barack Obama would be the most anti-gun president in history - bar none," NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last month.

It's those allegations that seem to have caught the attention of certain gun owners.

"They're like, 'Hey, maybe I should buy one of these before they become illegal,' " Mr. Chee said, going so far as to add: "If you look in any NRA magazine or you're into guns, you see a lot of bills that are in the works."

Mind you, there is no indication whatsoever that Obama intends to make gun control a priority in his first term. It went largely unmentioned during the campaign, except this brief allusion during his Denver acceptance speech:

The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.

Indeed, when the gun-sales data emerged, the Obama camp had this to say:

"What people do is their own business, and if they decide to go out and buy guns they'll go out and buy guns, assuming that they are eligible to buy guns," John Podesta, the co-chairman of Obama's transition team, told reporters Sunday. "But I think that President-elect Obama has been clear in his campaign that what he wants to focus on is the economy, trying to get jobs growing again, dealing with the health care crisis, and dealing with our dependence on foreign oil."

It's worth remembering, perhaps, that the NRA is largely underwritten by the arms-manufacturing industry. So of course it makes sense for them to fearmonger an Obama presidency as much as possible -- you can see the results right now.

The people snapping up all those guns right now? Well, right-wing outfits like the NRA wouldn't exist if not for P.T. Barnum's famous observation.

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