LIHUE — Bronson Bautista, owner of Armory Kauai, said he saw an uptick in sales during last year’s presidential election.
“Everyone who was looking at the election, they were worrying what would happen, so everybody prepped,” he said. “Now that Trump’s in, sales have tapered off, and business is more consistent than a big rush.”
He said his store, which is located on Rice Street in the Lihue Town Plaza, has been experiencing a steady amount of sales at his shop.
“People are purchasing new pistols and rifles. Ammo sales have been going through the roof — we haven’t been able to keep ammo and stock, especially with Sports Authority closing,” he said.
Jason Bryant, owner of JGB Arms, said sales have increased at his Harbor Mall shop since 2007.
“If I had too do a quick guess, firearms and ammo sales increased roughly 10 percent year tapering off this year,” he said.
It’s a pattern seen across the state, according to the Department of the Attorney General.
Firearm registration activity increased dramatically since 2000, according to the department’s Firearms Registrations in Hawaii 2016 report.
Statewide from 2000 through 2016, the annual number of permit applications processed climbed to just over 341 percent and the annual number of firearms registered soared to about 392 percent.
The Firearms Registrations in Hawaii 2016 report provides a range of statistics on firearm permits/licenses, registrations and denials in the State of Hawaii and its four counties.
Last year, there were 21,408 personal firearm permit applications processed in the state of Hawaii, which is a 8.4 percent increase from 2015, according to the the study.
Of that number, 95.7 percent were approved, representing a total of 53,400 firearms that were registered during the year. That is a 14 percent increase from the number of registered firearms in 2015, the report shows.
Additionally, about half of the firearms registered were imported from out of state.
On the Garden Isle, there were 1,889 applications for firearms processed in 2016. Of that number, 1,678 applications were approved.
Additionally, there were 4,542 firearms registered.
The surge in firearm applications and registrations is reflected on Kauai.
Over the last 17 years, 2001 saw the least amount of applications. That year, 386 were processed. Last year saw the highest number of firearm applications processed, according to the study.
Only 855 firearms were registered in 2003 on Kauai.
Bryant believes there are two reasons for the uptick in sale of firearms on Kauai.
“The general public here on Kauai is very concerned about personal safety. Home invasions and drug-related crime observed by the public are higher than ever,” he said. “Either there is more criminal activity on Island or the criminal element is more brazen and operating in a more visible fashion.”
Another cause are the requirements for people to to get other, non-lethal options, like pepper spray, he said.
“Kauai is the only county which requires it’s residents to file for a permit to obtain non-lethal defensive tools like pepper spray. The wait time to purchase pepper spray is two weeks, the same for a firearm, and requires a background check similar to the ones performed for firearm permits,” he said. “The end result is folks opt to purchase a firearm over pepper spray.”
Bautista said the most popular items at his shop are hunting rifles.
“They’re looking for something new and modern with better accuracy, less kick and more comfortable to shoot,” he said. “We don’t have a public shooting range on the island, so that’s why on my end, hunting rifles have increased.”
At JGB Arms, popular firearms include pistols like the Glock 17 and Smith and Wesson M&P. The most popular shotgun is the Mossberg 500. For rifles, the most popular is the semi-automatic AR-15, Bryant said.
Those weapons are being used for self-defense, Bryant said.
“Self-defense firearm purchases outnumber purchases in the hunting, sporting and collector firearms category combined,” he said.