By Chris Kwiecinski
Sales in Illinois gun stores have risen in the past month, as gun owners fear their firearms will be confiscated or gun costs will rise due to potential legislative changes, gun-store owners said this week.
The potential new laws stem from reaction to the Parkland shooting last month.
According to Todd Vandermyde, executive director of Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, the first mention of stricter gun laws sets off a chain reaction that always seems to lead to panic among gun owners.
“Any time the government moves to restrict firearms in a very brash or broad way, usually it sets off a small panic buying,” Vandermyde said. “It generally spurs gun owners to stock up and make the purchases they were contemplating and had been putting off.”
Vandermyde, a former NRA lobbyist who has overseen activity at gun stores since last November, said these recent spurts in business have been notable for some stores, with some enjoying record days.
“Some stores that I know are reporting that last Saturday they had the best Saturday they’d seen in over 20 years,” Vandermyde said. “There’s a renewed interest.”
He also pointed to weekends as when guns stores have many of their most profitable days.
Mandi Sano, president of The Gun Doctor, said business at the Roselle store has always been busy on the weekends, specifically on Saturdays.
Vandermyde said high-profit weekends are usually expected, as The Gun Doctor, Maxon Shooters in Des Plaines and Red Dot Arms in Lake Villa also offer training classes that count toward a gun owner’s earning their concealed-carry license.
“Talking to our local members and everything, everybody’s reporting that they’re having some peak periods over the weekends,” he said. “When you have a flat market, prior to going into this, the only thing that’s changed is the legislative action.”
These sales rises are a stark contrast to business after Donald Trump was elected president. Vandermyde said business stalled, as gun owners and customers did not feel threatened by the government, specifically Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“The threat of Hillary Clinton and her presidency was gone, so things had slowed down,” he said. “You’d seen the downturn in the sales market overall that was industry wide.”
The primary piece of legislation in question, HB 1469, was originally sponsored by State Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, and has caught momentum among house committee Democrats in the wake of Parkland, as well as the shooting death of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Specifically, the Illinois House of Representatives introduced a bill on January 31 that would ban gun magazines with 10 or more rounds.
The Illinois House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill on March 6, however the vote has been delayed.
Vandermyde said he believes the vote will be put off until after the Illinois Primary elections on March 20.
“Everybody’s scared. Fear is always an emotion that takes over people.”
Mike Rioux, owner of Red Dot Arms, saying business in his store has been extremely hectic in the past week, said the recent legislative action has his customers afraid.
He called his customers the “good guys,” who are afraid their firearms will be taken away.
“There’s panic. Things are a little bit hectic for everybody,” Rioux said. “Everybody’s scared. Fear is always an emotion that takes over people.”
Sano, of The Gun Doctor, said fear of losing their guns plays a smaller part in her customers’ buying more firearms, but that fear isn’t pinned specifically to legislation.
Instead, Sano said, there’s an assumed price increase for firearms, in the event of gun bans, that drives gun owners to buy while prices are lower than what they anticipate.
Along with banning high-capacity magazines, the bill also includes increasing the legal age for a person to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, and a 72-hour cooling period after purchasing an assault weapon.
Rioux, however, said creating more laws would not matter, as Illinois residents could still purchase illegal magazines in neighboring states where they are legal, such as Wisconsin and Indiana.
“It doesn’t bring the balance of power to the rest of us,” Rioux said. “It removes any balance of power to people who can help someone.”