Newtown massacre: US races to stock up on weapons ahead of potential new federal ban

Rather than recoiling from the gun, Americans are emptying stores of ‘sporting rifles’ while online prices soar

As Newtown continued to mourn its dead yesterday and a Presidential task force convened to consider how to tackle America’s firearms addiction, much of the rest of the country was busy stripping gun-shop shelves bare of any items that might be prohibited by a new federal ban.

Independent gun-shop owners such as Austin Cook of Hoover Tactical Firearms in Alabama reported a stampede of customers anxious to buy assault rifles like the one used by Adam Lanza to kill 26 people, including 20 young children, at a Newtown primary school. Lanza also killed his mother and himself. “I can’t keep them in the store,” Mr Cook said of the weapons.

It is a sad tradition in America that each mass shooting is followed by a surge in gun sales, in part because people calculate they need more firepower to protect themselves. That explains why the days since last Friday have also seen a surge in sales of special backpacks for school children lined with bullet-proof material. Their manufacturers allege they work well as shields in classroom firefights.

Now, however, there is the added fear among gun enthusiasts that new restrictions are around the corner and they had better get the weapons they covet before it’s too late.

President Barack Obama endorsed the reintroduction of an assault weapons ban on Wednesday that expired nine years ago and created a task force to look at other ways to make sure  massacres such as last Friday’s don’t happen again. Since then, sales have soared further.

“A lot of people have been coming in looking to purchase semi-automatic rifles,” confirmed Aaron Byrd, of Shooting Sports in North Carolina, which has sold out of the type of rifle Lanza carried as well as the magazines and the bullets that go with them. “They’re worried that the government’s going to ban semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, so they’ve been coming in looking for those”.

Stocks of so-called “sporting rifles” are meanwhile exhausted at Wal-Mart locations in parts of the country, Bloomberg News reported. The company removed the advertising specifically for the Bushmaster type of rifle that Lanza used to kill his victims from its web pages this week while Dick’s Sporting Goods, with 500 outlets nationwide, has for now stopped selling sporting rifles altogether.

On eBay’s US auction website late on Wednesday, the bidding for four Glock handgun magazines – ammunition for one of the guns used at the Sandy Hook shooting – had reached $118.37, compared with another sale on the day before the shooting which only reached $45, Bloomberg reported.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the director of online sales at the Hyatt Gun Shop said the store had already surpassed $1m in sales on Tuesday – the best single-day performance since the store opened in 1959 – as customers anticipated Mr Obama’s announcement.

With funeral services and wakes being held each day this week for the victims of the massacre, some Newtown residents have formed a group dedicated to making sure  hat this time something actually happens in Washington to make gun laws tighter.

“The most important thing is to build a movement here, to build a network,” Chris Murphy, who is soon to become Connecticut’s junior US Senator, told the group.

The Attorney General, Eric Holder, was to travel to Newtown last night to meet lead investigators of the shooting, while in Washington, Vice-President Joe Biden opened the first meeting of the task force announced by Mr Obama.

The plan is to nail down a set of measures, likely to include a new assault weapons ban, for Mr Obama to unveil in his State of the Union address at the end of January.

All eyes this morning, meanwhile, will be on a press conference by the powerful National Rifle Association which so far has issued only a brief statement saying it would contribute to the debate on how to ensure massacres like last Friday’s don’t happen again. While a number of moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill have rushed to endorse a tightening of gun laws, Republicans have largely remained silent on the topic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
United States President Barack Obama, right, uses actor Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele to play the part of 'Luther, President Obama's anger translator'
video
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

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...

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