Concealed carry driving handgun sales in McHenry County

Despite the traditional summer slowdown, area gun retailers are seeing elevated handgun sales primarily from customers wanting to put new concealed-carry permits to use.

The heightened sales happening locally follows a national trend that has gun retailers selling more concealable, compact pistols to buyers interested in self-defense. CRT Capital, a national financial services firm, recently found that compact pistol sales are doubling the rate of overall handgun sales.

Gun manufacturer Colt is working to boost handgun production by 50 percent, while Smith & Wesson’s handgun sales increased by nearly a third at the end of 2013. In Illinois, gun shops from Marengo, McHenry and East Dundee have seen the new concealed-carry law drive compact gun sales.

“Illinois has more gun rights than it did six months ago,” Marengo Guns owner Dominic DeBock said. “That’s reassuring people.”

About 60,500 Illinois residents possess a concealed-carry license since the Illinois State Police began accepting applications Jan. 5, according to agency figures. In McHenry County, about 1,870 residents now have a concealed-carry permit, a steady increase from the 822 applicants in mid-January.

State Police spokesperson Monique Bond said the program’s popularity has been trending upwards. Officials, she said, should see an additional spike in applications after the agency introduces a manual process within the coming weeks for gun owners who don’t readily have access to a computer.

The loosened gun restrictions in a state that was the last in the nation to pass a concealed-carry law comes on the heels of unprecedented gun production in the United States.

During President Barack Obama’s first term, the number of firearms manufactured in the country nearly doubled, going from 4.49 million in 2008 to 8.57 million in 2012, a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows.

The yearly increases dramatically outpace production during George W. Bush’s presidency. Firearm production increased from 3.79 million in 2000 to 4.5 million in 2008, according to the ATF.

Following the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., gun retailers saw a major sales boost from customers who feared increased gun restrictions from Congress. The “frenzy” nearly emptied the shelves at HP Shooting Center in McHenry by the following spring, said owner Bill Preskar.

Although gun regulations languished in Congress, the McHenry store and indoor shooting range continues to see new customers interested in handguns. Preskar sees both the concealed-carry law and gun debate driving interest.

“We are seeing a lot more new customers, a lot of people who were on the fence before,” he said. “When you tell people you can’t have something, then all of the sudden they want it.”

Marengo Guns has also benefited from Illinois’ move toward concealed carry and heightened concern about gun control, although the fear has subsided since the aftermath of Sandy Hook, DeBock said.

“Guns laws themselves have become less restrictive during this time of paranoia,” he said. “That’s reassuring people to keep their firearms.”

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