Robert Caselnova, who owns a Connecticut gun shop located less than 10 minutes from the school, said firearms flew off his shelves over the weekend, with multiple requests for AR-15 style rifles, a weapon Adam Lanza used in the Newtown massacre. Caselnova said he knew the Lanzas and that the mother and son had visited his store in the past, separately, but never made any purchases.
After high-profile shootings, debate over gun control can cause consumer demand for guns to rise, government records have shown. Industry experts say fears that stricter laws will follow such incidents push people to stock up on firearms before regulators can clamp down. But last weekend’s spike in business was unprecedented, gun shop owners in California, Connecticut and North Carolina told HuffPost.
Larry Hyatt, owner of North Carolina-based Hyatt Gun Shop, which claims to be America’s largest independently owned gun store, said he had a line out the door on Saturday, forcing him to call in extra salespeople.
“We already have tons of customers because of Christmas, hunting season is peaking right now, and not to mention, the election,” Hyatt said. “But this tragedy is pushing sales through the roof,” he added. “It’s like putting gasoline on a fire.”
Last weekend’s gun rush caused the federal system that processes background checks for firearm purchases, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, to experience heavy delays. The FBI, which runs the NICS database, declined to comment on the number of background checks it has received since Friday. But Paul Marquardt, owner of ArmsX, a Connecticut-based gun store near Sandy Hook Elementary, said the wait-time on Saturday for a background check was nearly an hour — the longest wait-time he’s ever seen.
“The two busiest days I’ve witnessed during my four years in the business,” Marquardt said, “was the day after Obama was elected, and ahead of that, last Saturday.”
The Black Friday after the Nov 6 election, gun sales across the country broke records, crashing the FBI’s background check system, according to The Denver Post.
At Ade’s Gun Shop in Orange, Calif, manager Lisa Atkinson said Saturday was the biggest day the shop has ever had, with some $13,000 in sales.
“It was the first time we had to call a nearby gun shop to see if they could sell us a gun because we had run out,” Atkinson told The Huffington Post. “It’s been crazy.”
In Arizona, one-day gun sales jumped 60 percent after a gunman killed six people in a Tuscon parking lot and wounded others, including then-US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Similarly, in Colorado, after 12 people were killed inside a suburban movie theater in July, background checks for gun purchases reportedly spiked 41 percent. In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, these checks have spiked again, reaching a record-high for the year.
The AR-15 style rifle, a weapon of choice in both the Colorado shooting and last Friday’s shooting in Connecticut, accounted for more than 25 percent of ArmsX’s recent sales, Marquardt said.
Freedom Group, the weapon’s manufacturer, reported a 20 percent increase in revenue for the first nine months of this year. “The manufacturers (of the AR-15) can’t keep up with the demand,” Caselnova said.
Protection and the government’s failure to provide it is part of the reason gun sales are rising, Hyatt said, adding that the economic downturn spawned a growing belief among his customers that the US is ill-equipped to safeguard its citizens. “You can’t get enough police to protect us, the jails are full, the mental health system is failing us,” he said. “That’s why more people are buying weapons, to protect themselves and their families.”