Even though a federal law banning assault weapons is set to expire today, Columbia gun shop owners don’t expect an increase in firearm sales.
“The main talk around here is how it’s been pretty quiet,” said Lee Brandkamp, owner of Powder Horn Guns and Sporting Goods on Old 63 North. “Gun control is a pretty dead issue.”
The Federal Assault Weapons Ban Act of 1994, signed by President Bill Clinton, banned 19 types of assault weapons — including Uzis, TEC-9s and AK-47s — and reduced the amount of ammunition a magazine could hold to 10 rounds. It also outlawed such gun features as the folding stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount and flash suppressor. American companies still produced the guns for foreign markets and may now reintroduce them in the United States.
However, a section of the law states that assault weapons manufactured before 1994 are legal. For this reason, local gun shop owners are not expecting more business when the ban expires today. Most gun shop owners have continued to carry pre-ban firearms, and they say the biggest impact of the law’s expiration will be lower prices for magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Brandkamp has been in the firearm business since 1983 and recalls that in 1994, he had a huge increase in sales because people were stocking up on goods that were being made illegal.
“The demand is going to be (greater) when they try to take them away,” Brandkamp said.
Doug Grindstaff, operations manager for Target Masters Gun Shop on Rangeline Road, said that after the ban, magazines with 15 to 20 rounds would sell for about $100. Now that the supply will be on the rise, he said the price should fall back to the normal $20 to $30.
Law enforcement officials in Columbia are apprehensive about the ban expiration.
Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm has expressed concern about the over-the-shelf purchase of these guns that will take effect today. His department has not seen any of these weapons, but he does not like the removal of the ban.
“I’ve never seen any reason why items like this should be available,” he said.
Saying assault weapons are not necessary in the United States, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill criticized Republican leaders in Congress on Friday for not extending the ban.
“I don’t get why we need assault weapons, and I don’t understand why the leadership in Washington is not willing to stand behind law enforcement for their protection,” McCaskill said Friday at the Boone County Courthouse.
McCaskill was in Columbia Friday afternoon touting her ideas for law enforcement in Missouri.
In a written statement Friday, Spence Jackson, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Blunt, said Blunt supports the right to bear arms as outlined in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
McCaskill said she supports gun ownership in most situations.
“We need hunting rifles, people may need guns for personal protection, but we do not need assault weapons,” she said.
Boehm stood behind McCaskill as she spoke. After the speech, he reiterated his concerns.
“I’m very concerned about it,” Boehm said. “It’s worked the last 10 years. I don’t know of anyone in this county or anywhere else who needs an assault weapon.”
But Grindstaff said the ban has been detrimental to sporting competitions like target shooting. He said people who have the post-ban guns must use 10-round clips and as a result, they are at a disadvantage to those who use pre-ban guns. Under the ban, those who wanted to obtain the higher round clips had to pay exorbitant prices. Grindstaff said he doesn’t think it’s fair that people using guns for professional purposes have to suffer.
“People shoot sport all of their lives and never do anything else with it,” he said.
Now that the higher-round magazines will be going back down to their pre-ban price, the 10-round models will probably be discontinued.
“Our 10-round magazines won’t be worth diddly,” Grindstaff said.
Grindstaff said he has had nine pre-orders for firearms, but cannot legally sell them until today. Once the ban expires, he said it would probably take manufacturers two to three weeks to deliver the products. Brandkamp does not have any special orders for semiautomatic assault weapons. Nor does Mel Chandler, owner of Second Amendment Gun Shop on Northland Drive.
Chandler has been selling pre-ban weapons since the act was passed and does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
“If somebody wants them, I’ll sell them,” he said.