By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BERRIEN COUNTY — Business at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club has steadily increased since President Barack Obama began talking about increasing gun control last week.
Roy Daugherty, owner of the Benton Township shooting range that sells weapons, said their guns and ammunition have been selling quite well and he expects it to remain that way for another week.
“When we opened today, there were a few people waiting to come inside to look at guns,” he said. “This week it has varied in ages. We have had ladies in here who are 80 or 75 years old buying guns.”
After a mass shooting last month left 14 dead in San Bernardino, Calif., Obama said he would look into administering more gun control to curb gun violence in the U.S.
On Monday, Obama called for all gun sellers to register as dealers – even those who sell at gun shows and online – and to run background checks on all prospective buyers. In an attempt to prevent unlawful gun purchases, the FBI will hire 230 more examiners to process background checks, the White House said.
Daugherty said this is nothing new for his business. Since Point Blank Shooting Range is a registered gun dealer, employees have to call background checks with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“In a way, it’s going to increase my business because it’s going to slow down these other guys,” Daugherty said. “Obama’s going to increase the number of agents, so maybe I’ll get to someone faster when doing a background check. You come to our store, purchase the gun, we do the paperwork and call it in.”
At the worst, Daugherty said a customer has to wait half an hour on background checks.
“If you are a good citizen, you’re going to walk out of here with a gun,” he said. “This doesn’t change much on our end. When (the ATF) denies or delays it, it’s up to me to turn people away. If the customer wants to know why, they have to call a certain number. Officials don’t tell us why they’re not approved.”
Chad Shimunek, owner of Black Arsenal in Stevensville, said gun sales haven’t been a challenge coming out of the holiday season. December and January are months when a lot of residents look at buying a gun as a present.
However, Shimunek said some of those sales stem from what people have been hearing from the nation’s capital.
“There’s some concern. The concern is the legality and extent of power that (Obama) is taking,” Shimunek said. “People are practical and know how things work. They see the problems that don’t come from a lack of regulation. It comes down to individual accountability.”
While his customers have expressed their worries, Shimunek said he is supportive of any president who is willing to put more money into the ATF.
Shimunek said he considers the move to add more staff to help with background checks long overdue.
“At the end of the day, there are some very positive things there. It will improve the time and any delays,” Shimunek said. “When we call for approval, we want to make sure they’re correct and will keep bad people from getting weapons. That’s money well spent.”
Mike Sharkey, owner of The Gun House in St. Joseph, said his gun sales have doubled in the last few weeks in anticipation of Obama’s actions.
“There’s a lot of word that this is just the start and that they are trying to initiate some things before getting aggressive,” Sharkey said. “What he has asked for in background checks needed to be done. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
In addition to gun and ammunition sales being on the rise, Daugherty said the classes his shooting range regularly holds are filled though February. Daugherty said this boost in sales is to be expected whenever gun control is a hot topic in Washington.
“They have to listen to what the president is saying,” he said. “If you catch anyone off guard by saying ‘gun control,’ everybody panics. We want to teach safety. When you buy a weapon, don’t put it in the drawer – learn how to shoot.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 6, 2016)