Gun sales soar in Colorado in wake of cinema killings

Citizens rush to arm themselves as public paranoia sparks incidents in other states

Gun sales have surged in Colorado in the days since the state became the scene of the worst mass shooting in the US.

Local authorities reported a huge spike in the numbers of gun stores running background checks on potential customers, and shooting ranges are now booked up for weeks.

The figures suggest that many locals have responded to the rampage that killed 12 people at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Denver suburb of Aurora in the early hours of Friday morning not with a new campaign to ban semi-automatic weapons and handguns, but with a determination to arm themselves in self-defence.

At Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo, there was a queue of more than 15 people outside the store when it opened that Friday morning, and sales have been brisk ever since.

"It's been insane," store employee Jake Meyers told the local newspaper in Denver. "A lot of it is people saying, 'I didn't think I needed a gun, but now I do'. When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing – 'Hey, I go to the movies.'"

According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, it approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm between Friday and Sunday, a 43 per cent increase on the previous weekend. It ran 1,216 checks on Friday alone.

While some liberal politicians have demanded tighter restrictions to make it harder for the likes of shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes to build an arsenal of weapons, President Barack Obama sidetracked the issue of putting gun control at the forefront of the political agenda in his remarks in Aurora.

Public support for new gun laws has fallen and the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association has grown in recent years, despite a string of mass killings.

One Colorado Congressman, Ed Perlmutter, who has pushed for tighter restrictions in the wake of last week's incident, received invective on his Facebook page from gun lobby supporters.

One post read: "If ONE person inside that theater was armed, this situation would NOT have been as bad as it is. Stricter gun control means NOTHING to the criminal."

Police in Maine yesterday unveiled details of a huge cache of weapons found in the home of one resident who told them he was on his way to shoot a former employer a day after watching The Dark Knight Rises.

Timothy Courtois had been stopped for speeding when a police search of his car found an AK-47 assault weapon, four handguns, ammunition and news clippings about the killings in Aurora.

Separately, movie-goers in Sierra Visa, Arizona, panicked when a man who appeared intoxicated was confronted by security guards during a showing of the movie. The Cochise County Sheriff's office said it caused "mass hysteria" and about 50 people fled the cinema.

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