Gun and ammo sales are up at Smyrna Sporting Goods and owner Brian Brown knows why.
"People think they're going to lose their rights," he said. "It's just like people stocking up on bread and milk before a storm, but most of the time the bread goes bad and the milk goes sour."
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month, Delaware lawmakers began to take a careful look at the First State's own laws regarding certain guns and ammunition.
Gov. Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden have proposed legislation that would ban the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, increase the stringency of background checks required for obtaining guns, require that residents report lost and stolen firearms and ban possession of guns near a school.
"Our proposals are focused on two important goals: keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, and taking reasonable steps to address the terrible phenomenon of mass shootings," said Cathy Rossi, the governor's communications director.
According to Rossi, the legislation should be introduced this week; following that, it will move through both houses of the General Assembly to be voted on.
"These proposals are reasonable, necessary and entirely constitutional," Rossi said. "Gov. Markell believes in the Second Amendment. But this isn't a debate about the Second Amendment – the measures being proposed are constitutional."
The National Rifle Association has a different take on the proposed legislation. The Delaware State Sportsmen's Association along with the NRA held a rally on Sunday opposing this legislation and its members had a lot to say on the subject.
"We feel that this is an unnecessary, cynical and opportunistic political ploy based on a horrific tragedy," said former NRA President John Sigler, who is also the current chairman of the Delaware GOP. "These proposals are aimed at law abiding citizens and will only affect them. If they pass this, they should be prepared for a long, drawn out legal battle."
Regardless of whether or not the legislation passes, the mere mention of it has affected gun sales in a noticeable way. According to Brown, the demand for guns and ammo in the weeks since the shooting and proposed legislation has been so high that it has left his shelves bare. Brown does most of his business in hunting weapons, but recently handguns and .223 rifle ammo have been flying off the shelves.
"Customers want to know why we can't get products; it's because they've bought it all up," he said. "The manufacturers can't keep up with the demand."
These supply and demand issues can be seen all across the state. The demand is so high that stores that previously sold in bulk have had to begin rationing ammo.
Page 2 of 2 - "Suppliers are tapped out," said Thomas Shellenberger, of the Delaware State Sportsmen's Association. "I stopped in Target Master just over the Pennsylvania state line and they usually have pallets of ammo stacked up for you to buy by the case, now there's almost nothing and they're limiting customers to buying two boxes at a time because they run a range and if they don't they will run out."
Beth Parsons, of Shooters Choice, a gun shop and shooting range here in Dover, has also seen an uptick in gun sales since talks began of changing legislation as well.
"It's not specific to one type of gun," she said. "People are afraid of having their rights taken away, so they're getting what they can get. It seems like every time I turn around 50 people are walking in to buy a gun."
Parsons doesn't just chalk it up to fear, however. According to her, it also has to do with a defiant American spirit.
"You can't just tell Americans they can't have something, they'll do it to prove a point," she said.
Sigler had his own explanation for the run on guns and ammo.
"People understand that the government will have a hard time taking away from them what they already own," he said.
Regardless of why they might be buying, consumers across the area have taken note of the shortage. "Stores sell out the day everything comes in," said William Cahall, who attended a gun-rights rally, hosted by the NRA, at Modern Maturity Center in Dover on Sunday.
Not only has the demand gone up, the prices have as well, in some cases by leaps and bounds.
"Prices for certain things have doubled [on] anything that you hear about being subject to a ban," Schellenberger said. "Things are either unavailable or the prices have doubled or even tripled."
Despite the fact that certain guns may be taken off the streets, local gun dealers don't seem to be worried about a possible impact to their business.
"We won't be able to sell certain guns and magazines, so the business won't be there in that capacity," said Parsons. "If the general public can't get one type they'll turn to another type."