While the debate over gun control rages across the nation and in its state capitols, Americans continue to buy up firearms and ammunition.
So much is the demand, in fact, that gun shops are struggling to fill their shelves and their customers' orders.
It's not that there's a shortage of products being manufactured, but a case of current demand far outstripping supply, they say.
The situation drove one Yuma gun shop to close its doors.
Foothills Firearms recently closed after eight years in business. Owner Ben Suissa said the problem he faced wasn't lack of customers but an insufficient supply of products they wanted.
“I can't get guns or ammunition,” he said.
It's been challenging as well for Sprague's Sports, acknowledged owner Richard Sprague. He's fortunate, he said, that his business has 56 years of relationships with manufacturers and suppliers to draw on. And he's active in various industry organizations.
“Our relationships run deep,” he said. “The last five months I've really had to leverage those relationships. I've worked seven days a week trying to get product. Sundays I'm on the phone and computer.”
It has been particularly tough since the 2012 presidential election, Sprague said, attributing the increased demand to a reaction by gun owners to President Barack Obama's anti-gun agenda.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 young students and six adults were gunned down didn't help.
“Basically that threw grease on the fire,” Sprague said.
But while the anti-gun movement seeks tougher gun laws, millions of law-abiding Americans are rallying around the Second Amendment and the right it gives the nation's citizens to keep and bear arms, whether for self-defense or sport.
“There's been a huge jump in demand,” Sprague said. “The administration has shot demand through the roof. People don't trust the future ability to buy guns and ammunition.”
And as long as the industry remains a “political football, it probably will remain that way.”
Sprague said manufacturers have actively ramped up their production, but demand has gone up more. “It's just been very busy since the election.”
It's become so critical, people traveling through stop everywhere they can to see what they can get.
“Literally, everything has been on order at 12 places,” Sprague said. “I take names and call people when I get in what they want.”
Things are slowly recovering, though, and Sprague is now getting multiple deliveries a day.
“I'm starting to see better supplies. We're getting product I was out of for months. There's still many holes and I'm still having to allocate ammunition. But every day is a new beginning as trucks show up.”
In the meantime, he said, it's not been fun “to be in the crosshairs,” and the future for the firearms industry remains uncertain.
However, Sprague is hopeful that the current situation is a cycle, one he's seen in past years with other milestones in gun control legislation.
He's confident enough that he is planning an expansion of the store he built eight years ago. It's really three projects: construct a new building for shipping and receiving with offices upstairs; construct a new building for Truck Mate, another business he has; and then expand his store into the space now occupied by Truck Mate that will give him about 20 percent more retail and showroom space.
The store also has seen a lot more interest in the training and education program it offers, Sprague said. It has doubled its First Shot classes that introduce first-time shooters to firearm safety and shooting sports. Concealed weapons classes have “been extremely busy,” and the first class for Street Safety Survival was well received. The store also will provide firearms and personal defense classes and hunter safety classes.
In addition, there has been a tremendous response to the formation in Yuma of a Well Armed Woman chapter. It will give women of all experience levels the opportunity to be introduced to issues important to women shooters, learn safe gun-handling skills and train together.
It is really a shooting club and not a class, said Nicolle Griffin, a local female gun enthusiast who is starting the chapter as a volunteer. “I was already doing this for my personal friends and this opportunity presented itself on a national level, so I joined their bandwagon.”
A 2011 Gallup poll reported 47 percent of American adults currently have a gun in their home and 23 percent of women personally own a firearm.