U.S. gun sales surge after Colorado theatre massacre
Buyers fear stricter gun control legislation
Firearms sales are surging in the U.S. after last week's Colorado theatre massacre as buyers fear that politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons.
In Colorado, where Friday's shooting killed 12 and injured dozens, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 per cent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 per cent more than the same interval the week prior.
Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in Arvada, Colo., said requests for concealed-weapon training certification "are off the hook." His four-hour course in gun safety, required for certification for a concealed-weapons permit in Colorado, has drawn double the interest since Friday.
"What they're saying is, they want to have a chance. They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theatre," Rutan said.
Day-to-day gun sales frequently fluctuate, but the numbers look strong outside of Colorado, too.
Seattle's home county, King, saw nearly twice as many requests for concealed pistol licences than the same time frame a year ago. Florida recorded 2,386 background checks on Friday, up 14 per cent from the week before. Oregon sales on Friday and Saturday were up 11 per cent over the month before. Four days of checks in California were up 10 per cent month-to-month.
During the past decade, June and July have consistently been the slowest months for gun sales, according to FBI data.
Gun tragedies often spur sales
Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Georgia, found that his sales on Saturday were up 300 per cent from the same day a year ago — making it one of the best Saturdays his business has ever had.
He said customers are often afraid when there's a gun-related tragedy that some legislators might try to push through an anti-gun agenda.
"We shouldn't let one sick individual make us forget and lose sight of freedoms in this country," Wallace said. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.
Authorities have said the suspected Colorado shooter, James Holmes, stockpiled weapons and explosives at work and home in recent months. He purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle and two Glock pistols, authorities said.
On Friday, clad in head-to-toe combat gear, he burst into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, tossed gas canisters into the crowd and opened fire.
Nationally, the shootings have triggered a fierce debate over gun control and whether government has a role in reining in the ownership of firearms.
Sales spiked following the election of President Barack Obama, when weapons enthusiasts expressed fear that the Democrat might curtail gun rights. FBI figures also show background checks for handgun sales jumped in Arizona following the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.
Some Democrats in Congress cited the shooting as evidence of the need for tougher gun control laws — particularly a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congress, however, hasn't passed strict legislation in more than a decade, and leaders in Washington show no sign of bringing up such measures any time soon.
Moviegoers on edge
The rise in gun sales reflects but one of the anxieties created by the shootings. Since the massacre, there have been reports of chaos at movie theatres, apparently sparked by misunderstandings or careless words.
A confrontation with an intoxicated man in an Arizona theatre caused about 50 people to flee, authorities said. A California man was arrested after authorities say he made allusions to the Aurora massacre after the movie didn't start on time. In New Jersey, a showing of the Batman movie was cancelled after someone stood up during the movie, opened an emergency exit and then returned to their seat.
About 90 minutes into a Monday night showing of the movie in Santa Monica, Calif., shrieks from some girls sent about two dozen people sprinting for the exit. It turned out that a large man with a backpack was simply having a medical problem.