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Fear, Greed Driving Surge In Guns And Ammo Sales

It's certainly reassuring to know that, as the economy deteriorates, there are more guns in the hands of people everywhere! FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- Th

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It's certainly reassuring to know that, as the economy deteriorates, there are more guns in the hands of people everywhere!

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.

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