Gene Stanley has owned Guns 4 U, a firearms store in rural Howell County, southern Missouri, for about 15 years. Before that, he sold herbs.
He’s been around guns since he was a little boy, he said, hunting for rabbit and squirrel.
“The news always has a huge effect upon our business here," he said.
"So any time there’s some kind of a national or local disaster, it always does have a big effect upon us as individuals and as customers," he said.
He attributes this to a concern of infringement upon the rights guaranteed to Americans under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
"People react to that in different ways, but normally, if people feel afraid of something in their life being taken from them, they're going to turn in reaction against that,” Stanley said.
Stanley said there is always a noticeable spike in customers after a mass shooting or a move by lawmakers to clamp down on certain types of guns or accessories.
“I’ve had folks come in, actually people in their latter years that didn’t even own a gun, now will come and buy a gun because of that feeling of, maybe, losing that freedom that they’ve had for all these years,” Stanley said.
Stanley said he would rather not have a fear factor involved in his gun sales.
“I would rather sell guns to customers that come in just wanting a gun, not in fear that they might not be able to get it sometime down the road,” he said.
Being prepared for sudden spikes can be challenging as a business owner, he said.
Stanley said he looks to the past to predict what might be ahead for his business.
“You base your business upon those things in the past, the type of guns, the type of ammo that you bring in because knowing probably the way things are now, it’ll only be a few days ‘til this is going to happen again,” Stanley said.
Stanley said recent incidents around the country involving AR-15 semi-automatic guns have led to spikes in sales of the AR-15—also because of the fear this type of firearm will be further regulated. It's unhelpful, he said, when the media incorrectly label these weapons as "automatic rifles"—because that is a very different thing than semi-automatics, he said.
Stanley’s shop is currently out of AR-15 rifles and he says he believes the demand for these rifles across the country is the cause.
“Normally, they are sold as they come in,” he said.
Stanley said he has 10 or 12 distributors for the rifle and all of them are out of the AR-15 as well. He says he currently has a waiting list of customers wanting to buy one.
However, Stanley said he has no concerns about his customers using guns for the wrong reasons.
“No, I do not have an issue with selling guns to people especially here in our area,” he said. “A lot of the guns that are sold here are for hunting purposes. A lot of people do a lot of target practicing, a lot of long range shooting here in our area.”
In the decade before the 2016 election, gun sales skyrocketed. The National Instant Criminal Background Check, part of the FBI, reported a jump from about 12 million background checks for firearms in 2008 to over double that—27 million background checks—in 2016.
Since President Donald Trump took office, gun sales nationwide have slowed somewhat. And Remington Arms Co., the firearms company that’s been around for over 200 years, has just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Gene Stanley says business is good here in Howell County.
He’s relying on trust, expertise, and customer service to get his business through any potential slumps. He and his wife send out over 100 hand-signed birthday cards to their customers each month, he said.