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Today's word on journalism

May 12, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at


Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Guns fly off shelves as buyers fret new administration

By Christian Hathaway

May 6, 2009 | Patrick Klomp isn't sure when the situation will get any better. Standing with his arms extended, palms facing up, before empty shelves at C-A-L Ranch, he shakes his head.

Since November, American ammunition companies and foreign competitors have been working at full capacity to ensure stores have product on their shelves, but supply cannot meet demand. "More ammo is walking out of the store and being sold than is being produced," said Klomp, who has been a firearm salesman for more than 11 years.

Co-worker, Scott Stiver said, "Instead of boxes, people are buying cases and walking out with a thousand dollars of ammo." Last Tuesday the store received a shipment of 9mm ammo, the first of its kind in five weeks. The first customer of the day wanted to buy every single box, Stiver said. But a limit of two cases per customer had been imposed.

C-A-L Ranch stores aren't the only ones unable to acquire ammo. All the stores are in the same boat, Klomp said. The store received a letter from Hornady, an American manufacturer of ammunition, who said they would ship product as soon as they could, but set no specific date. "The E.T.A. (estimated time of arrival) column was left blank, they can't tell us when," Stiver said. Ammunition isn't the only thing disappearing off the shelves. Gun sales have skyrocketed between 200 and 300 percent since November, Klomp said. But he believes the current backlog in ammo will cause sales to slow down again, as people won't be able to find the ammunition they need.

Why all the fuss since November? Klomp suggests that the increase in sales of guns and ammo is because of the threat of changing guns laws. "President Obama doesn't support concealed carry, and wants to micro-stamp ammunition," Klomp said clutching a printed fact sheet from

"This would raise the cost of a single box of ammo ten times," he said.

Compact handguns are the most popular type of gun leaving the shelves at C-A-L Ranch. Many people are in the market for concealed handguns because of the sheer number of people now taking concealed weapons courses in Utah, Klomp said. In order to purchase a handgun you have to be over 21 and purchase it in your resident state, he said.

Jack Sevison, Radar Navigator and B-52 Bombardier during the Vietnam War, isn't convinced with the need to go out and purchase additional firearms. I've had guns for years but never had a reason to use them, he said. "It's just other people putting the panic on and people joining in," Sevison said.

Many first time shooters are buying guns out of fear that they won't be able to purchase certain types soon, Klomp said. "Before the last weapons ban, my mom purchased an AK-47 assault rifle and her own handgun because she believed in the right to own a gun," he said.

"Where the economy is in the toilet right now, firearms for a lot of Americans is their security blanket," Stiver said. He doesn't believe that limitations should apply on what type of gun an American should be able to buy. A semi-auto is just as deadly as a 12-gauge shotgun or a deer hunting rifle, Stiver said. People that come in here to buy AR rifles, also known as black rifles, are using them as sporting guns, he said. Most guys will buy a shotgun if they want some sort of defense weapon.

The laws they have right now are enough, Klomp said. The background check does a good job and filters out who should be able to buy guns. Klomp gave an example saying that a man could come in and be denied for purchase and then his wife could come in and they would be able to catch that.

As a firearms dealer we have to show the serial number of who we sold the gun to and do a background check, all of which is on record in the store, Stiver said. We are responsible for the weapons sold and are required by state law to keep the sales records for 20 years, Klomp said.

One or two people every month get denied on the purchase of a firearm out of about 250, Klomp said. It isn't very often and "you get a vibe when you think someone is going to be denied." If people don't answer the questions on the form correctly we stop the sale right then, he said.

Sevison suggests that with such laws in commercial stores people who do not qualify turn to alternative sources, such as gun shows and private dealers to obtain firearms. There are no more guns for private sale in the paper, he said. Before November you would see them all the time and now people are keeping hold of them, or charging three-hundred dollars more, Sevison said.

We haven't seen the cost of weapons increase in our store, Klomp said. But private salesmen are jacking up their prices, he said. People have an obligation not to sell a firearm to someone who doesn't seem trustworthy, said Klomp.

When asked about turning a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon, Stiver mentioned that all the National Firearms Act rules still apply. If a person does that he can end up in jail for 19 years, with up to a $500,000 fine, he said.

Stiver opposes a weapons ban because he believes a lot of people just collect guns. "I have a bunch and haven't even shot them." He laughed, saying that they are a good investment and would never go down in value like a car.

"During the Clinton weapons ban, I sold one of my AR rifles and make a thousand dollars profit off it," said Klomp, who has been collecting guns since the age of 12.

Sevison's son is also a collector of weapons. He has bought four or five guns since November and keeps them locked up in a safe with a numbered combination and lots of ammunition, said Sevison. "My son called me just the other day and said -- you want an AK-47? I have one down here for $550."

"You always joke about food storage, to have a gun to keep the neighbors out," he said. But he don't know what he, or anyone else, would realistically use such a gun for.


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