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Guns, ammo in short supply at Fletcher Arms in Waukesha

Local gun shops sees sales spike since school shooting

Sean Eaton fires his hand gun at a target at Fletcher Arms in Waukesha.

Sean Eaton fires his hand gun at a target at Fletcher Arms in Waukesha. Photo By Todd Ponath

Feb. 20, 2013

Sean Eaton looks at the shelves at Fletcher Arms and in some areas he sees nearly bare shelves.

Guns and ammunition have flown off the walls at the Waukesha gun shop in the last few months.

The demand is overwhelmingly surpassing the supply right now, said Eaton, owner of Fletcher Arms, 1441 E. Main St.

"We've easily doubled our sales from this time last year," Eaton said. "Sales is a little stagnant now, but that's just because we can't sell enough because we've run out."

As a result, the ammunition they do have is being used primarily for range practice.

"Otherwise we'd run out, because we have a back-order list for it," he added.

The list to sign up for concealed carry when it was signed into law in 2011 in Wisconsin spurred business as the shop was running two concealed carry classes a week. After the initial rush, Eaton said, classes were trimmed to once a month.

But now it's up to two to three times a month.

The cause for the rapid sales increase and classes in concealed carry is no coincidence for Eaton.

"Definitely after the Sandy Hook shooting and then the talk of regulations recently regarding semi-automatic weapons has fueled everything," Eaton said. "The entire country is selling out of ammunition. Everyone who wants it is having to wait."

Eaton, of course, is referring to the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 children and adults dead after a gunman opened fire in December after a year marred by gun violence across the country.

Andy Sivert, manager at Blain's Farm and Fleet in Waukesha, also said that his store has seen an uptick in ammunition sales in recent months.

"Definitely, there's been an increase," Sivert said.

He added, however, that he doesn't know that it's a direct correlation between sales and last year's mass shootings.

Nevertheless, in response to these shootings, President Barack Obama gave an emotional plea at his annual State of the Union address as he urged Congress to take up measures on an assault-weapons ban that would also include a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10-rounds as well as background checks for all firearms transfers.

Eaton likes that there are talks for universal background checks for those purchasing at private gun shows.

"Absolutely," Eaton said. "Those are fine with us. We're all in favor of preventing gun violence and for background checks, because when put in the wrong hands bad things can happen. So preventing that in any way we can within reason is great."

But restricting semi-automatic rifles, which has been brought up by politicians locally and nationally, isn't the answer, Eaton said.

"It's a known fact that there are millions of gun owners in the United States and for a vast majority of them, there are no issues," Eaton said. "It will only affect law-abiding citizens,because to others the law doesn't matter.

"Expecting an instant fix will be impossible and it's not going to happen. In Connecticut, it wouldn't have had an effect, because (the gunman) got them from someone else in the same house. He didn't go to a gun store to get a background check."

The guns the gunman used were bought legally and owned by his mother, who was also killed by her son in the rampage. Connecticut police said the gunman used a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

When asked why a law-abiding citizen would need this type of weapon, Eaton said it's common for individuals to use them for target shooting and hunting.

But Eaton added that the issue goes deeper than limiting guns.

"If you look at gun violence stats, the people committing these atrocities and how disturbed they are and depressed, it's pretty crazy," Eaton said.

Would he turn away someone if he doesn't feel they are suitable for a gun?

"It's all on our feel and of interacting with customers," Eaton said. "There's no such thing as looking suitable. When talking with a customer our purpose is narrowing something that they're going to use. Is it for defensive (purposes)? Is it for concealed carry? Is it for target practice? Guns are made for different purposes."

Eaton said he takes his background checks very seriously, but when asked if he ever worries about selling a gun to an individual who could possibly commit a mass shooting Eaton was direct.

"Of course you do," Eaton said. "But you take all the steps you can and if there are no weird feelings or anything that gives you any indication and that individual passes a background check, that's as much due diligence as possible."

In his speech, Obama said he knows that not every act of violence can be prevented, but added, "We were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can to secure this nation. We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans."

Eaton said he hasn't talked to any politicians about curbing gun violence but just isn't convinced that banning weapons is the right step.

"The stuff is always going to be available," Eaton said. "It's the same as drugs. They're illegal but you can still get them, so why punish law-abiding citizens that have guns for recreational uses?

"Banning certain guns, it's hard. We all talk about it. What could change, but would any of that help? I can't see in any way it would, because those who don't follow the law are going to break it."

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