YAKIMA, Wash. — Go to a gun shop in Yakima, and the display cases likely are empty. Missing are the compact, muscular rifles like the AR-15 — semi-automatic weapons based on military and law enforcement designs.

Since the weekend, local gun shops have seen a rush on firearms and ammunition that’s been fueled by fears of new restrictions on gun ownership, several people in the local gun trade said.

“People are afraid they’re going to take them away. So, they’re buying them while they still can,” said Clinton Hayes, an employee at Hammer’s Outdoor World in Union Gap.

“I’m completely sold out of the AR-15 and accessories, and so are my vendors,” Hayes said.

It’s a pattern that’s being repeated across the country, according to news reports.

Steve Van Klinken, co-owner of Grumpy’s Outdoor Store in Yakima, said his customers are worried most about what President Barack Obama might do.

The Yakima Valley saw a similar increase in gun sales leading up to and shortly after he took office in 2009.

However, Obama has not pursued any significant gun control initiatives during his time in the White House, a move that has been severely criticized by advocates such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Nevertheless, “People just don’t trust President Obama,” said Sharon Dressel, who makes custom wooden gunstocks with her husband.

Obama has called for “meaningful action” on gun control following last week’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and eight adults — including the shooter — dead.

Even gun-rights proponents in Congress have called for stricter gun laws since the shooting.

Dressel said the shooting is an “absolutely heartbreaking” and “gut-wrenching” tragedy.

But “it’s a complicated issue,” she said.

That complexity is illustrated in a report on gun control released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service exactly a month before the Newtown shooting.

From 1994 to 2007, the number of guns in America grew from 192 million to 294 million.

But during that same time the number of firearms-related murders dropped from 16,333 in 1994 to 11,631 in 2007.

“It’s not just guns. It’s a lot of things” contributing to violence in America, Dressel said.

Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-759-7850 or dcatchpole@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dcatchpole.