Mike Barrett, owner of Barrett's Marine and Sporting Supply, says he's seeing more first-time gun buyers in his store these days, and County Clerk Don Read reports that the most recent gun permit class had 42 people in it.
The increase in local gun ownership matches a national trend.
"I don't think it's one element that is behind the increase," Read said. "It's everything put together."
And everything means fears of new federal and state legislation restricting gun and ammo sales, the recession and increases in crime, and the usual reason -- newfound interest in hunting and target shooting.
Whatever the cause, Barrett said distributors' warehouses are bare and it's more difficult to get inventory.
Barrett and his staff where a little upset with Read this afternoon, after hearing that Read blamed the increase of permits on "scare tactics" by the NRA and other gun advocates. Conservative commentators have been raising concerns about President Obama's anti-gun positions and legislation being introduced at both the state and federal levels.
"I heard that (Read's comments) today and almost blew a gasket," Barrett said. "A lot of people are down playing what's going on and it's nothing to be played down. I don't say that just because I'm a business man There is a train coming down."
Barrett handed over information on five state bills that would limit gun ownership, make it harder if not impossible to buy certain kind of guns and obtain ammunition.
Anti-gun legislation has been introduced before and didn't pass. Read said he thinks this round of legislation isn't likely to pass either.
"I don't attribute it to scare tactics, but there is an aspect that people are afraid there will be more restrictions," Read said. "Personally, I don't see that happening, but often perception of an issue is more important than reality."
The surge in gun permits goes beyond the specter of stricter legislation, Barrett said. The recession is also driving concerns about a rise in crime and the need for self protection.
A member of his staff, Jack Taylor, said a 70-year-old woman walked out of the store 20 minutes earlier with her first rifle.
"She bought it for target practice and to keep around the house," Taylor said.
Read tells a similar story: "We just had a lady in, a well-known lady, who is retired now and her husband enjoys target practice and she wanted to be able to enjoy it with him."
Asked about more gun ownership in Genesee County, Sheriff Gary Maha responded:
"Those persons obtaining gun permits are law-abiding citizens and are not
a concern to law enforcement. I believe in the Second Amendment -- 'the right to bear arms.' It is the illegal guns and illegally obtained guns that I am concerned about."
For more information on the proposed legislation in New York, visit the SCOPE Web site.