A quick primer on the rifles and ammunition being debated:
Assault rifle — A rifle that is capable of being fired in fully automatic and semiautomatic modes at the user’s option. Designed for, and used by, military forces and some law enforcement agencies.
Assault weapon — A semiautomatic firearm similar in appearance to a fully automatic firearm or military weapon. Not synonymous with assault rifle, which can be used in fully automatic mode.
AR-15 — Registered trademark of the Colt firearms company, refers to the lightweight rifle designed by Eugene Stoner and first built by ArmaLite. Variants of the firearm are independently made, modified and sold under various names by multiple manufacturers. The military versions are the Colt M-16 rifle and Colt M-4 carbine.
5.56 — Also known as the 5.56x45 mm cartridge. A high-velocity cartridge fired by the AR-15 and similar rifles. Standard issue for U.S. and NATO forces.
.223 Remington — A cartridge with almost the same external dimensions as the 5.56x45mm NATO military cartridge.
WALLA WALLA — A national surge in sales of AR-15 type rifles, as well as ammunition, is apparently being mirrored locally.
“It’s a madhouse,” Jeff Pierce, owner of Double Diamond Tactical in Milton-Freewater said Thursday. “Two weeks ago I could have ordered you pretty much anything you wanted. Now they (distributors) are all back-ordered.”
Although there appeared to be no shortage of many other types of firearms and ammunition in local stores, there was a marked scarcity of the assault weapons that have become a subject of major debate since the Dec. 14 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Ammunition used by that rifle and other military-style weapons has also been flying off the shelves both locally and nationally.
Pierce said the fastest-selling calibers have been the 5.56 mm, .223 Remington and .22 long rifle, as well as “anything that goes in semi-auto rifles.” Shortages of some handgun calibers, notably the .45 ACP round, are also showing up, he said.
According to national news reports, the fear of a renewed ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have resulted in sales of AR-15 rifles and similar weapons skyrocketing. According to HispanicBusiness.com, assault weapons have sold out in many Central Florida gun shops following President Obama’s promise to make gun control a “central issue” in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
“For the second time in four years, gun dealers reported daily sales matching as much as a month’s worth of business,” the website reported. Similar situations are being reported in other areas throughout the country, including the Seattle region.
According to a post on the Internet forum AR15.com, Brownell’s, a major dealer in gun parts and gunsmithing supplies, has said the demand for high-capacity rifle magazines has been unprecedented. The company said it had sold the “average demand” equivalent of about 3 1/2 years worth of one type of AR-15 magazine in a 72-hour span. It has also sold “an even greater amount” of its own Brownells magazines.
Background checks for firearms purchases have also been hitting new highs. According to news reports, the FBI has said there were 16.8 million background checks through the end of November, the most since 1998 when the agency began tracking the numbers.