Conventional wisdom suggests that Missouri’s new conceal-and-carry law would be a bonanza for gun dealers, sending gun sales through the roof.
But so far, the evidence proves otherwise, according to several area gun shop owners.
“A lot of your people who are going to get the permits have already got the guns,” said Carl Adams, owner of Briggs Gun & Sport shop in Fulton.
An informal survey of several mid-Missouri gun dealers echoes that sentiment. In the month since the law was passed, there has been no rush among people to arm themselves, but existing gun owners have shown high interest in applying for permits to conceal their weapons.
Pete Waldron, 30, of Columbia, who owns two handguns for hunting and target practice, said he plans to apply for the new permit.
“Since you have the right, go ahead and exercise it,” he said.
Missouri’s new conceal-and-carry law would have gone into effect Saturday, but a St. Louis circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction delaying its enforcement until the state Supreme Court can determine whether the law is constitutional.
Missourians 23 and older would be eligible for the conceal-and-carry permit after passing a background check and completing an eight-hour handgun-safety training course.
So far, fewer than a dozen customers have visited Powder Horn Guns in Columbia shopping for handguns to conceal, said store owner Lee Brandkamp. Gun owners, he said, are going to conceal their weapons regardless of the new state law.
“If people feel the need to pack, they will,” he said. “People have been concealing weapons for a long time, too.”
While most of the area’s licensed gun dealers have experienced minimal increases in handgun sales, Target Masters in Columbia is an exception. Store manager Doug Grindstaff, who normally sells 700 handguns a year, estimates the new law has increased sales by 35 percent. But among the nearly 500 people who have registered for the required certification course at his shooting range, Grindstaff said nine out of 10 already own a handgun.
The new law comes at a time when overall firearms production in the United States has been declining. The latest report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms shows that between 2000 and 2001, domestic manufacturing of handguns dropped 26 percent from nearly 1.2 million to about 947,000.
But neither the decline in production nor the new conceal-and-carry law have had any impact on supply and demand at the Second Amendment Gun Shop in Columbia. Business has always been good, according to store owner Mel Chandler, who said handguns account for about 75 percent of his store’s annual firearms sales.
People who want to conceal, he said, want lightweight weapons that are easy to hide under their arms or inside their pockets.
“It all depends on how they want to pack,” Chandler said. “For the most part, you’re talking about small weapons, 2-inch barrel pistols and revolvers.”
Brandkamp said those looking to buy and conceal seem to prefer compact, lightweight semi-automatic handguns with heavier triggers that won’t accidentally discharge. The 9 mm pistol is the bestseller, dealers say, followed by the smaller 22 mm and the much larger .357-caliber handguns. Some top brands include Ruger, Beretta, Keltec, Walther and Smith & Wesson. Women prefer handguns small enough to hide in their purses, they said.
Hal Johnson, 41, of Columbia, said he’s considering buying a semi-automatic handgun to conceal. He said if he does buy a handgun in the near future, he’ll probably apply for a conceal-and-carry permit.
“I don’t have a great need for it right now, but I may down the road,” he said.