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Interest in AK-47s spikes after ban

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

Retailers know that sometimes, the best way to pique consumers' interest in a product is to tell them it's no longer available.

The lesson is being reinforced at local shooting supply stores this week, as more and more customers have come in with questions about AK-47s.

Firearms dealers nationwide have seen their supply of Russian-made AK-47s and other firearms vanish after President Barack Obama approved economic sanctions against Russia. The buying frenzy hasn't hit western Kentucky as hard as other parts of the nation, but it has brought more attention to the classic firearm.   

"The real pressure started to come after they (the Russian AK-47s) were gone," said Don Cherry, owner of DC Outdoors in Murray.

The administration in July issued an executive order blocking the purchase of new Kalashnikov Concern products in response to Moscow's aggression in Ukraine. U.S. citizens who already own an AK-47 or another Kalashnikov Concern firearm, such as Saiga shotguns and rifles, may keep the products or sell them on the secondary market, according to the Treasury Department. The sanctions don't apply to AK-47s made in America or Europe.

Cherry said his business orders those firearms from three main warehouses, all of which are empty in the wake of the ban. He and other regional gun supply stores report they still have non-Russian models in stock.  But many of Cherry's customers want to know when the ban will be lifted, he said, or how to buy the Russian product from a secondary vendor.

Chance Clanahan, manager of Paducah Shooters Supply, said he's been fielding similar questions. But the sanctions haven't had much of an effect on his business. The store continues to carry AK-47s made outside Russia in locations such as Romania.

The AK-47, designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov near the close of World War II, boasts enduring popularity due to its reliability and ruggedness. It lacks accuracy when compared to other firearms, such as the AR-15, Cherry said, but customers still purchase it for target practice and deer hunting. The firearm typically sells for about $599, but can be as expensive as $1,000, he added.

"You can dip it into a mud hole and bring it up and it's going to shoot," he said. "It's always going to shoot."

The increased interest in the firearm doesn't surprise Cherry. Talk of federal gun control often leads to a run on weapons and ammunition, as did the election and re-election of Obama. The ongoing joke, Cherry confirmed, is that Obama is the country's best gun salesman.

Some gun enthusiasts suspect that the sanction is a way for the administration to ban a style of gun it doesn't like. In a statement on its website, the National Rifle Association acknowledges that "these latest sanctions will know doubt engender the idea among some that the Treasury Department is using a geopolitical crisis as a convenient excuse to advance the president's domestic-gun agenda." But the association hasn't yet taken that stance. Instead, it reports that it's "monitoring this situation closely."

Cherry said he isn't worried the administration will expand the ban to include non-Russian rifles. "I'm pretty comfortable right now that it's just going to be with the Russian (product)," he said.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.

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