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Gun sales surge after Colorado theater massacre

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July 25, 2012, 2:46 p.m. | World — by Associated Press

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., center, leads a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 24, 2012, to criticize the sale of high-capacity magazines for assault rifles that are sold to the public. From left are, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lautenberg, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. A previous federal ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines was allowed to lapse in 2004.
© AP

Associated Press

Associated Press

DENVER — Firearms sales are surging after last week's Colorado theater massacre as buyers fear that politicians may use the shootings to seek new restrictions on owning weapons. 

In Colorado, where Friday's shooting killed 12 and injured dozens, gun sales jumped in the three days that followed. The state approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm — 25 percent more than the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 percent more than the same interval the week prior.

Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in Arvada, Colorado, said requests for concealed-weapon training certification "are off the hook." His four-hour course in gun safety, required for certification for a concealed-weapons permit in Colorado, has drawn double the interest since Friday.

"What they're saying is, they want to have a chance. They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theater," Rutan said.

Day-to-day gun sales frequently fluctuate, but the numbers look strong outside of Colorado, too.

Seattle's home county, King, saw nearly twice as many requests for concealed pistol licenses than the same time frame a year ago. Florida recorded 2,386 background checks on Friday, up 14 percent from the week before. Oregon sales on Friday and Saturday were up 11 percent over the month before. Four days of checks in California were up 10 percent month-to-month.

During the past decade, June and July have consistently been the slowest months for gun sales, according to FBI data.

Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Georgia, found that his sales on Saturday were up 300 percent from the same day a year ago — making it one of the best Saturdays his business has ever had.

He said customers are often afraid when there's a gun-related tragedy that some lawmakers might try and push through an anti-gun agenda.

"We shouldn't let one sick individual make us forget and lose sight of freedoms in this country," Wallace said. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms.

Authorities have said the suspected Colorado shooter, James Holmes, stockpiled weapons and explosives at work and home in recent months. He purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle and two Glock pistols, authorities said.

On Friday, clad in head-to-toe combat gear, he burst into a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," tossed gas canisters into the crowd and opened fire.

Nationally, the shootings have triggered a fierce debate over gun control and whether government has a role in reining in the ownership of firearms.

Sales spiked following the election of President Barack Obama, when weapons enthusiasts expressed fear that the Democrat might curtail gun rights. FBI figures also show background checks for handgun sales jumped in Arizona following the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.

Some Democratic lawmakers in Congress cited the shooting as evidence of the need for tougher gun control laws — particularly a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congress, however, hasn't passed strict legislation in more than a decade, and leaders in Washington show no sign of bringing up such measures any time soon.

The rise in gun sales reflects but one of the anxieties created by the shootings. Since the massacre, there have been reports of chaos at movie theaters, apparently sparked by misunderstandings or careless words.

A confrontation with an intoxicated man in an Arizona theater caused about 50 people to flee, authorities said. A California man was arrested after authorities say he made allusions to the Aurora massacre after the movie didn't start on time. In New Jersey, a showing of "Batman" was canceled after someone stood up during the movie, opened an emergency exit and then returned to their seat.

About 90 minutes into a Monday night showing of "Batman" in Santa Monica, California, shrieks from some girls sent about two dozen people sprinting for the exit. It turned out that a large man with a backpack was simply having a medical problem. 

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