DETROIT -- President Barack Obama is the best thing to happen to American gun and ammunition manufacturers since they invented the Defense Department.
Convinced that Obama is going to seek drastic limitations on gun ownership and huge taxes on ammunition, people who view the world through Second Amendment glasses are cleaning out handgun ammunition from the shelves of outdoors stores across America and buying handguns and even some rifles like they're going out of style.
At Jay's Sporting Goods in Clare, Mich., salesman Tim McCall said the store had been largely cleaned out of 9mm pistol ammunition and was experiencing massive sales of .40 and .45 caliber ammo.
"Anything for personal protection is selling like crazy," he said. "They're also buying a lot of .223 and 7.6x39 Russian."
The latter are common calibers among the so-called "black guns," semiautomatic versions of U.S. and Russian military guns that have a Rambo look but in truth are no more deadly than traditional semiautomatic hunting rifles.
At Cabela's in Dundee, Mich., operations manager John Woniewski said ammunition "is selling like wildfire. Anything that's a center fire round is selling."
And while some stores have raised prices on ammunition, Woniewski said, "Our prices haven't really changed much this year. The only question is whether this demand will keep up."
I first saw the ammunition sales phenomenon in Florida about a month ago when I stopped at an outdoors store to price a handgun. The display case had only a few .22 caliber revolvers left, and the store had a backorder of at least two months on new shipments.
Standing at the cash register was a man with enough ammunition in his arms to overthrow the government of a small country. It was for 9mm and .45 caliber handguns and a .223 rifle.
When I asked why he developed a sudden urge to buy a few thousand rounds, he looked at me like I came from Mars.
"I'm stocking up before Obama puts that $100-a-box tax on shells. This is the fourth store I've been to in a week, and I've taken all they'd give me. Some stores are limiting what you can buy," said the man, who would only give a first name of Mark.
"And we'll be lucky if that's all he does," Mark said. "What he really wants to do is ban the sale of all semiautomatic pistols, rifles and shotguns."
When I asked Mark how he knew this, he gave me another incredulous look and said, "It's all over the Internet. Don't you read the gun forums?"
Oh, that explains everything. If it's all over the Internet gun forums, it must be true.
When I got back to Grayling, Mich., a few days ago, Missy Millikin, who owns Skip's Sports Shop with her husband, Jack, had been cleaned out of 9mm ammunition but still had a good supply of .45 caliber pistol ammo.
"I'm getting calls from people (downstate) who say they'll come to Grayling to buy it," she said. "Some of them want to know what kind of price I'll give them by the case."
I suspect Obama would be amenable to reimposing some Clinton-era restrictions on guns that are routinely but inaccurately describe as assault rifles (an assault rifle can be switched to fully automatic, like a machine gun, and it's very difficult for most people to get a machine gun permit).
He also might like the idea of increasing the tax on some ammunition to discourage people from buying it in wholesale amounts. But neither of those measures would have any real effect on gun crime or on the average American hunter.
And it's very unlikely that any seriously restrictive guns laws would pass a Congress whose constituency includes huge numbers of gun owners and which is fed enormous amounts of campaign money by the National Rifle Association.