MILWAUKEE — Firearms-related businesses in Wisconsin say they are having a difficult time meeting demand from rising gun sales in the state.
Wisconsin’s gun sales follow a national trend, and businesses say the rising demand is being driven by various factors, from Wisconsin’s concealed carry law to presidential politics.
“It’s incredible,’’ said Steve Lauer, owner of Lauer Custom Weaponry, which manufactures firearms, firearm coatings and accessories in Chippewa Falls. “We can hardly keep up.’’
Exact figures on firearms sales don’t exist, but based on the number of calls made to the FBI and Wisconsin Department of Justice for background checks related to firearms purchases, more guns are being sold this year than ever, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The 16,000 calls to Wisconsin’s handgun hotline in February were a record. This year, the hotline has handled more than 53,000 calls and it’s on pace to surpass 2011, when the hotline handled nearly 90,000 calls.
But not everyone sees the increase in gun sales as a positive thing. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the nation’s most prominent gun-control organizations, said higher household gun ownership “correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.’’
The Brady Campaign also said “the percentage of American households with a gun has been steadily declining over time’’ and that gun sales are concentrated among people who already own guns.
Regardless, the renewed interest in guns has been good for arms-related businesses across Wisconsin.
“We’ve seen our business increase 20 percent to 30 percent over last year,’’ said Kevin Nugent, owner of The Shooters Shop in West Allis. “It’s just been phenomenal.’’
The company is expanding at its current location and is opening an affiliate store called The Bunker in June.
“The biggest problem is finding the inventory,’’ Nugent said. “You can’t find the inventory. When it’s offered, you buy it. That’s all you can do. It’s a very good problem to have.’’
Demand for shooting practice range time at Fletcher Arms in Waukesha has been so strong, the business had to add additional shooting lanes, owner Sean Eaton said.
“We’re busy every day,’’ he said.
In November, national outdoor retailer Gander Mountain chose Germantown for its first firearms-only concept store, Gun World by Gander Mountain. Last weekend, Gander opened Gun World locations in Eden Prairie, Minn.; Wichita, Kan.; and West Palm Beach, Fla., said Jess Myers, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based outdoor chain.
“There’s been a real spike in not only firearms ownership, but learning how to properly use firearms as well,’’ Myers said.
Gun sales typically have surged in recent presidential election years, said Brian Rafn, portfolio manager at Morgan Dempsey Capital Management, which has offices in Milwaukee and Delafield. This year, though, it’s off the charts.
That’s because gun owners and prospective gun owners are uncertain whether whoever ends up controlling Congress and winning the White House will support gun rights, Rafn said, so they’re buying before the general election.
Wisconsin’s concealed carry law also is cited as a factor. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has issued more than 100,000 concealed weapons permits since the law took effect in November. In announcing the 100,000th permit, the department said it continues to receive hundreds of applications each day.
“We’re seeing a lot of new shooters and a lot of women shooters,’’ Nugent said.