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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week