PHOENIX Sales of rifles, pistols and ammo are surging in parts of the United States, as many gun owners fear President-elect Barack Obama's administration may seek to tighten ownership of certain weapons.
"The day after the election, I had many more calls than usual from people looking for semi-automatic rifles," said David Greenberg, the owner of the Second Amendment Family Gun Shop, in Bisbee, Arizona, who sold out of AR-15 rifles in recent days.
"There seems to be a fear they will be banned, and it's fairly likely," he added. "Obama and Biden are driven to eliminate firearms from the face of the country."
Gun stores and trade groups have reported a spike in firearms sales in the run-up to the November 4 election victory of Democrat Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who many perceive as strongly pro-gun control.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the shooting, hunting and firearms industry, reported a 10 percent jump in gun sales this year based on its analysis of an excise tax placed on firearms and ammunition, and a spokesman said the increase had grown dramatically ahead of the election.
"Gun owners are afraid of what Obama is going to do as far as guns," said spokesman Tony Aeschliman. "He has a clear record of being against us."
Obama stated his support for the right to bear arms during campaigning, although both he and Biden back a permanent ban on assault weapons -- military style semi-automatic rifles -- and "common sense measures" to keep guns away from children and criminals, positions which spurred concern among some gun enthusiasts.
"It's always been the liberal or Democratic agenda to restrict gun ownership," said Jim Pruett, the owner of a gun store in a Houston-area strip mall, whose sales more than tripled on the Saturday before the election to $35,000.
In McPherson, Kansas, gun dealer Steve Sechler said demand at a gun show last weekend jumped by more than 50 percent as buyers rushed to stock up on guns including Kalashnikov and AR-15 rifles.
"Most of the people there were cussing Obama and saying we need home defense," Sechler said.
Obama loyalists say gun owners need not fear curbs when he takes office in January. The Democratic governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, told a rally last month he had spoken directly to Obama about the right to bear arms.
"If you are a sportsman, if you are a gun owner, if you are someone that honors and respects the Second Amendment, you have nothing to fear from Barack Obama," he told a crowd in Chillicothe.
The lobbying arm of the powerful National Rifle Association, however, stoked concerns during the campaign, calling Obama a "serious threat to Second Amendment liberties."
Among other complaints, they accused Obama of endorsing a 500-percent increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition -- a comment he made as an Illinois state Senator in Illinois in 1999, but has not repeated.
The sentiments are so strong Wall Street is taking notice. BB&T Capital Markets analyst Frank Mitsch on Wednesday raised estimates for Olin Corp due in part to expected increased sales from its Winchester firearms ammunition business.
But despite surging sales, not all gun dealers are celebrating.
Scottsdale, Arizona, gun shop owner Manuel Chee sold out of AR-15 type rifles in the days on either side of the election, but said he would prefer to have steady sales and no prospect of curbs -- whether real or imagined -- in the future.
"I'd rather that (Republican Sen. John) McCain got in and there's not a big scare and we just followed our normal sales," Chee told Reuters.
"Rather than say right now we are going to make a lot of money for a few months, and then in a few months, possibly, our business could be shut down," he added.
(With additional reporting from Chris Baltimore in Houston, Carey Gillam in Kansas and David Schwartz in Phoenix, editing by Philip Barbara)