CASPER, Wyo. — One of the nation's best gun marketers, according to Wyoming retailers, lives on the East Coast in a huge house.
"Obama was the best gun salesmen we've had," said Irvin Walker, owner of Triggers Gun Shop in Mills. "That could very well happen again (Nov. 6)."
In fiercely independent, outdoors-loving Wyoming, a President Barack Obama re-election could bring a windfall to gun shop owners.
Additionally, the state's number of concealed-firearm permits through September of this year is higher than in previous years despite a new law allowing carrying without a permit. And the number is expected to only increase.
After the election, gun owners could walk into shops to find ammunition shortages and soaring assault rifle prices.
That's what happened in late 2007 and '08, after the Democratic president was elected.
"People are definitely scared of a president who has voted when he was a senator against guns," said Anthony Bouchard, director of the Wyoming Gun Owners Association in Cheyenne. "(If Obama gets re-elected) he's in a lame-duck session and he can do the things he wants to do. That's what we're afraid of."
During the 2008 election, gun enthusiasts across the nation stocked up on weapons and ammunition, convinced Obama would restrict them.
In Wyoming, gun owner Brad Nickel remembers rifles normally costing $375 shooting up to $700, $700 rifles selling at $1,500 and $1,500 rifles selling at $3,000.
"It could happen again," said Nickel, who sells guns and archery equipment at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Casper.
Locally, ammo is still on the shelves and gun prices remain steady, but sales are up.
Since the election season overlaps hunting season, though, Nickel wonders if hunters are helping boost gun sales, too. After all, many hunters use assault rifles along with bolt rifles, Nickel noted.
Sean McGriff of Casper said it was the election that prompted him to lay down $1,500 for an AR-15 - "just in case the prices skyrocketed or they were taken off the shelves."
Some people buy firearms for protection. Some buy them for hunting. Some buy them for both reasons.
"Firearms are a big deal," McGriff said. "I grew up in Wyoming. I use assault rifles for vermin hunting - coyotes, jack rabbits."
Ruger and Smith & Wesson represent nearly 30 percent of the U.S. gun manufacturing industry and lead the market in production of pistols and revolvers, according to government statistics. The two companies have been running production lines around the clock, hiring workers and operating at maximum capacity, said Jim Barrett, an industry analyst at C.L. King & Associates Inc. in New York, who also owns Ruger stock.
Ruger's sales have increased 86 percent since Obama took office, and Smith & Wesson's sales have gone up nearly 44 percent, compared with 18 percent for overall national retail sales.
For the first time since 1993, the number of federally licensed retail gun dealers in the U.S. increased slightly in 2010 and 2011. The country added 1,167 licensed retail gun dealers, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives records. After the assault weapons ban of 1994 — now expired — the number of gun dealerships dropped annually until 2010. As of this month, there were 50,812 retail gun dealers — 3,303 more than in 2009.
Interestingly, gun laws did not change in the four years since Obama took office.
Gun control has not surfaced as a major issue during the election season.
During the second presidential debate, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney said they wouldn't push for new gun laws but rather push for enforcement of the laws already in place.
That's why Kyle Bernard of Casper doesn't feel compelled to purchase a gun now.
"There are realistic and unrealistic prices," he said. "It's all about supply and demand, and also about fear."
If he needs a gun and the price is unreasonable, Bernard said he will wait until it goes down.
The sheer number of guns Walker of Triggers Gun Shop has sold has nevertheless increased in the past four years, compared to previous years.
The number of concealed-weapons permits also has increased, according to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. Permits are not required anymore for someone to conceal a weapon in the Cowboy State. But many Wyomingites get the permits so they can carry in other states.
"Every year we're getting more and more applications," said Christopher Lynch of Wyoming DCI. "You expect it to go up."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com