Colorado gun sales skyrocket to all-time high as gun control debates heat up

DU professor: Supply threatened, demand rises

DENVER - Colorado gun sales have been at an all-time high over the past three months, and the increase is a direct result of gun control debates.

The mere discussion of a ban on assault rifles in particular is flooding the state with assault rifles.

Richard Taylor, manager of The Firing Line in Aurora, is one of several gun dealers in the metro area who say they could sell many more military-style assault rifles than they have been -- if they could get enough of the guns to satisfy demand.

“We have had a tremendous run in the past three months,” Taylor told CALL7 Investigators. "As soon as they mentioned the possibility of some kind of a ban on assault weapons, that’s when it really hit.”

Records from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation support Taylor’s observations.

The number of background checks for gun sales has skyrocketed since the proposed assault ban legislation was introduced, according to CBI records.

During a three-month period between December 2012 and February 2013, when Congress proposed the assault weapons ban, the total gun-buyer background checks for handguns and long guns soared to almost 148,000.

By comparison, in the three-month period between December 2011 and February 2012, gun-sale background checks totaled just over 73,000. About half of these were long guns or assault rifles.

Denver University finance professor Mac Clouse says the increase is simply a result of supply and demand.

“We wouldn’t see the demand increase if there weren’t a ban, so we’re getting a bubble that’s caused by that demand increase due to the ban,” Clouse told CALL7 Investigators.

When consumers believe they can no longer get a product, he says, the demand -- and the price -- goes up.

“We saw lots of people buying Twinkies when they thought that they were going to disappear, purely for the reason of selling it later on Ebay for $20 a box," Clouse said. “And it was the same idea that we got this artificial increase in demand (for assault rifles) because we thought that they were going to go away.”

Because of this increased demand, Taylor is struggling to keep his shelves stocked.

“Right now, manufacturers are trying to produce as fast as they can, yet I still have empty shelves,” Taylor says. “Everything that we get in goes out the door almost immediately.”

Clouse notes that the proposed assault rifle ban is intended to reduce the amount of people who own the weapons, but talk of the legislation is actually causing an increase.

“Guns are certainly an emotional issue after some of the things we've seen happen, and so the first thought is, ‘Well, let’s just do something to ban them and make the sale of these illegal so that they go away,’” says Clouse. "But in fact it has the opposite effect.”

Taylor is pleased that the debates sparked a surge in sales.

“Congress has done a great job for us,” says Taylor. “Business has never been better.”

Clouse says that if Congress wanted to make military rifles less valuable to consumers, it would have to make them less desirable, such as proposing registration that would make them more difficult to sell.

That, coupled with a buy-back program, could theoretically cause people to get rid of the weapons, Clouse told Call7 Investigators. However, like the national assault weapons ban, such a proposal would have little chance of passing.

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