Dawn “Pebbles” Stucker probably had the last AR-15 rifle for sale in Buncombe County. And you can bet it’s gone by now.
Driven by fears of new gun-control legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, local firearms enthusiasts have engaged in what one gun shop employee called “panic buying.” Stucker, who co-owns Asheville’s On Target shooting range and retail gun store, says she has resorted to calling her distributors on their personal cellphones at 6 a.m. to keep her shelves stocked.
The line at On Target’s register stretched to shop’s door on Friday, Dec. 21. Stucker said that while the hottest items were those that may be targeted by a new weapons ban, shoppers are buying up even common items that were not used in last week’s shooting.
“There’s no .22 ammo in the country,” she said. “Normally I could call all day, any day and get a hundred [boxes]. Now there’s not a single round.”
Stucker said she has never seen such a run on guns, magazines and ammunition in On Target’s 24-year history. Her sales staff has decided to ration certain items. Magazines — while they were in stock— were limited to five per customer.
All of On Target’s AR-15 rifles — the same type used in the Newtown shooting and the supposed target of upcoming legislation — were sold out Friday afternoon, Dec. 21, except for a Smith and Wesson model. That rifle had been ordered for a customer who then failed to pass a federal background check administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The customer was not allowed to purchase the rifle.
“The ATF said, ‘Tell the guy to get out of your store,’” said Stucker’s husband, also an owner. “So we have one left.”
“And this one will be gone by the end of the day,” Dawn Stucker added.
The scene was similar at the sporting goods counter at the Walmart’s on Bleachery Blvd., where impatient customers waited for service among bare shelves. At Enka’s Guns n’ Gear shop, an employee who asked not to be identified said they had also begun rationing purchases of ammunition and magazines. By 5 p.m. Friday, only a few boxes of most popular calibers were left.
“We’re just trying to be fair,” said the employee. “There might be a kid out there who got his first .22 rifle for Christmas, and we don’t want him to wake up Christmas day and not be able to shoot it because this happened.”
Dawn Stucker said she believed the run on guns and ammunition is ironic, given the intent of the legislation.
“They’re trying to disarm America,” she said. “But now, we’re armed to the hilt.”