Gun enthusiasts stock up, fearful of proposed curbs

 

Washington

Gun sales have surged in the Washington metropolitan region and across the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as enthusiasts rush to buy firearms they fear will be outlawed by a fresh push for gun control.

Gun dealers requested nearly 5,150 background checks on purchasers in Virginia eight days after the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn. — the largest number ever in a single day, Virginia State Police said. And in the days since, the daily number of background checks has regularly doubled corresponding totals from the previous year.

In Maryland, state police project that they will receive 8,200 gun permit applications in December, more than in any other month this year and double the number received in June.

Similar surges have reportedly been seen in California, Colorado and even Connecticut, the site of the tragedy.

"I've never seen shelves so bare in stores that weren't going out of business," said John Pierce, co-founder of the Virginia-based gun rights networking hub OpenCarry.org. "It's really shocking."

The Nation's Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. on Friday was ground zero for the boom. Organizers expected twice as many attendees as came to a similar event last November. One dealer canceled because he ran out of ammunition to sell.

A line already snaked around the building shortly after the three-day event began at 3 p.m., and the parking lot was jammed. People heading into the gun show were met by protesters from the activist group CodePink, who held up a large pink cutout of a gun that read "assault weapons."

With an AK-47 slung over one shoulder, Marco Hernandez offered one word when asked why he and an overflow crowd showed up for the gun show, billed as the largest East of the Mississippi.

"Obama," he said, standing in front of the Expo Center. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the possible gun ban."

Like others, the 29-year-old Wheaton, Md. resident was in the market for an accessory some lawmakers and anti-gun advocates want to restrict in the wake of the school shooting: a high-capacity magazine.

Inside, gun dealers said they were doing an amount of business they had not seen in years — or ever. The dozens of stalls in the cavernous hall were swamped with customers,picking over everything from vintage rifles to camouflage handguns.

Vendors said the hottest items were such weapons as the AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed banning as part of a package of gun regulations.

Attendees and vendors at the gun show said some firearms and ammunition were selling at prices two or three times what they were a month ago.

"In 34 years, it's never been like this," said Jerry Cochran, the owner of Trader Jerry's, a gun store with two locations in Virginia. "Each day, business escalates to a new level."

Attendees said an anger was behind their burst of buying: They felt guns had been unfairly identified as the cause of the shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six staff members at the Connecticut school.

Some said they felt their rights were under siege and that the federal government should be directing efforts elsewhere, rather than restricting the sales of some firearms and accessories.

"Restrictions won't solve anything — they miss the point," said David Grantham, a Springfield, Va. resident who was shopping for a handgun with his wife. "The point is identifying people that need help and who should not have guns."

OpenCarry.org's Pierce said gun owners worried about new restrictions are just one part of the boom in gun demand. He said Sandy Hook also has produced a crop of first-time gun buyers interested in arming themselves against a similar attack.

He pointed to a friend's posting on Facebook in the wake of the shooting: "I will own a gun soon enough. Weird I don't already. I dare someone to come shoot my kindergartner."

Many at the gun show echoed a line uttered by National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at a recent news conference: "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Experts say other factors are driving the uptick as well. Before Sandy Hook, the re-election of President Barack Obama had stoked worries among gun enthusiasts about new restrictions. The end of the year is also a popular period to buy guns for the holidays and for the start of hunting season.

The boom has left some firearms companies shorthanded. The large ammunition supplier Brownells announced that it sold 3 1/2 years' worth of magazine clips in just 36 hours soon after the Newtown masscre. It warns customers on its website that it is experiencing delays in shipping because of the volume of sales.

Some of those shopping for guns Friday came away frustrated.

"My dad was looking for an AR-15 rifle, but there were few, if any, left," Patrick Roberts, 21, said after fighting the crowds inside the Expo Center. "They were going for $980 — now I'm seeing them on sale for $1,700 or $1,800."

The surge in sales troubles some who advocate stricter gun regulations. They said an increase in firearms won't make people safer; in fact, they said, owning a firearm places a person in greater danger.

"The mindset is, 'If only I had a gun I would be safer,' " said Andy Goddard, president of the Virginia Center for Public Safety. "It's a gut instinct, but it's not based on what the data we have available tells us."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions