CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Panic buying of firearms and ammunition has store shelves looking pretty bare nowadays.
At the same time, though, it has wildlife administrators wondering how to spend the windfall of federal dollars associated with all those purchases.
Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said the state stands to gain as much as $1.4 million in Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration funds, all of it related to the recent run on guns and ammo.
"It's amazing, the buying that's going on," Taylor said. "And 11 percent of every one of those sales goes into the Wildlife Restoration kitty and gets reimbursed to the state."
Even before recreational shooters began buying up AR-15s and their look-alikes, as well as the .223-caliber ammunition they fire, Taylor said states were already starting to receive financial windfalls from similar runs on handguns and ammunition dating back to the early days of the Obama administration.
"We're figuring out how to spend some of that money right now," he said. "But the increases now amount to only a few percent. We think the increases from the current round of buying will be close to 20 percent."
The money will come from an 11 percent excise tax paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers on every gun, cartridge or shell sold. The tax money goes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which in turn distributes it to state wildlife agencies for use in wildlife restoration programs.
By all accounts, sales of semi-automatic firearms on the federal government's proposed ban list have triggered an unprecedented sales boom, and with it a sharp increase in excise tax receipts.
Charleston's Cabela's store reportedly sold three months' worth of ammunition in the six days after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a gun-control bill aimed at banning "military-style" semiautomatics. Gun dealers in the Washington, D.C., area reportedly are asking for - and getting - $1,000 apiece for 1,000-round case lots of .223-caliber ammo, more than three times what they were getting beforehand.