Larry Gleasman says it's been "just crazy," in more ways than one. Sales at his Madison store, Grampa's Gun Shop, 1374 Williamson St., have been going through the roof, as they have for gun dealers nationwide.
"I understand there's gun shops that have put up pictures of Barack Obama saying 'Salesman of the Month,'" jokes Gleasman. "You can't even buy ammunition anymore. People are hoarding."
While the new prez has in fact been afraid to pursue even modest curbs on assault weapons used to kill police, the word in some quarters is that he will soon be cracking down on private firearm ownership.
"I don't tell them that, but there's a concern," says Gleasman, who considers this unlikely. "I can't tell them it won't happen."
Gleasman sells about 250 guns a year, mostly to "east-side, working-class hunters." His gross revenues have "doubled for two years in a row," although this owes in part to other area gun shops closing, not just Obamaphobia.
"A guy came in the other day and ordered six assault rifles" - two Colt AR-15s, two AK-47s and two Bushmasters, relates Gleasman, who serves as a middleman for such sales. "He said, 'I've got two young sons coming up - I want them to have their choice of guns in the future.'"
Gleasman also reports older customers, some of whom "have never owned guns before." They worry about the faltering economy and want to be prepared should, say, the neighbors storm their homes in search of canned goods.
What would Gleasman, the epitome of a nice guy, do if someone put a gun he'd sold to ill use? He says he'd feel terrible, noting his two close calls already.
About 25 years ago, a woman bought a 30-30 bolt action rifle, ostensibly to give to her deer-hunter brother. Then she walked into a state office building, put it to her supervisor's head and pulled the trigger. Happily, she did something wrong and the gun didn't fire.
"That was a very good lesson for me," says Gleasman, who afterward refused to sell guns to people "if it don't feel right," no matter how plausible their story.
A few weeks ago, a man came in to buy a gun but the sale was delayed. Gleasman was later visited by a coroner's deputy, who said the man committed suicide by other means. "Apparently he got tired of waiting for a gun," says Gleasman.
In the future, fewer Americans are likely to find themselves in that predicament.