BY LINDA BAKER
Tyrel Jackson, manager of the Gun Broker, a Portland-area firearms retailer, is a busy man. I called Jackson 4 times yesterday, and each time, he was preoccupied with customers. Gun sales, apparently, are booming.
One of the largest dealers in the state, the Gun Broker has three locations, in Tigard, Woodburn and Clackamas. The business was started in 1990 by Jackson’s father, a man who fought for background checks at gun shows and was ostracized for his pains, his son says.
In 22 years, business has been steady, says Jackson, who declined to reveal revenues.
But this week, the Gun Broker is especially busy. “The only time we see an increase in gun buying is in the aftermath of a political event such as an election or gun control legislation,” says Jackson. The recent tragedies in Newton and Clackamas are spurring sales, not so much because of the shootings themselves, but because gun enthusiasts expect a wave of gun control legislation to follow.
“It’s not what’s happened,” says Jackson, referring to the reason for the increase in sales. “It’s the effects of what’s happened.”
The recent tragedies in Newtown and, locally, at the Clackamas mall, are reviving the debate over gun control. The shootings also shine a spotlight on Oregon gun purveyors, a few of whom shared their thoughts on the industry, the shootings and the surge in the personal protection market.
The proprietor of Second Amendment in Grants Pass, Lynne Clow, 59, has the distinction of being one of the only female gun shop owners in Oregon. Clow worked at Staples for 11 years getting no health benefits or retirement, she says. So four years ago, she decided to get out of the minimum wage racket and start a business. Clow settled on the gun industry because her husband had always been interested in hunting, a sport he has since taught the entire family.
So far business has chugged along at a steady pace. “Except for right now because of that tragedy, people are going crazy buying AR- 15s and SKs (semi automatic rifles),” Clow said. “People have a fear that they are going to be banned.”
Pistols for personal home defense and protection are her biggest sellers, and many Second Amendment customers are women. “We’re in a county that has one sheriff, in a rural area,” Clow says. “A lot of women want protection.”
The store’s second biggest seller is ammunition.
The hunting market is slow this year, says Clow, a state of affairs she attributes to shorter hunting seasons and restrictions.
Clow doesn’t think assault weapons should be banned. “But I do think we need to regulate them a little more.”
Mike Bernhardt launched Crockett & Bowie, a firearms dealership, less than two years ago. Bernhardt doesn’t operate a storefront but instead “works with folks” to help them find the right “item” they are looking for. His clients include veterans, hunters, law enforcement officials “and a lot of first time users thinking about having a firearm for self-defense.”
The home defense market is growing the fastest, Bernhardt says. He credits growth in that area to the media, which “tends to push tragedy, robbery, security a lot more.”
Bernhardt describes his lone pet peeve when it comes to the firearms industry: that people can get concealed handgun licenses without ever having picked up a firearm. “I think that is terrible. You can’t get in a car without getting a driver's license. But there are a lot of people walking around with handguns who have no idea what a gun is.”
“In that respect, I would like to see more regulation.”
Revelation Arms is an Aloha-based gun repair business that has been around for 40 years. “Guns break, and I fix them,” says owner Roger Loock, who reports annual revenues of about $100,000. Business has crept up over the years, he says.
“There are more gun owners and more guns.”
Linda Baker is managing editor, Oregon Business.