The mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school did more than bring the nation together in grief. It brought out hoards of gun enthusiasts looking to buy high-powered weapons.
Two local gun shops in Warren County say they’ve been bombarded by gun requests, especially for assault rifles.
“There’s no telling how many calls I’ve gotten from people who say they need an AR-15 Bushmaster,” said John Basham, owner of Pigeon Hill Gun Shop in Centertown. “I had one guy call and try to give me his credit card number. He said he didn’t care what it cost. He wanted me to find one and charge it to his card.”
The murders of 26 students and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary have served to energize gun buyers. Background checks surged across America in December to nearly 2.8 million, compared with 1.6 million in October.
“If I had 100 assault weapons, I probably could have sold them all,” said Glenn Brown, owner of Brown’s Guns across from the airport. “Any AR type of gun is impossible to get right now. All of my wholesalers have sold out.”
Brown says he doesn’t usually carry assault rifles, mainly specializing in deer-hunting rifles and other guns people use in Warren County. He says he sees two reasons for the demand in heavy-duty firearms.
“There are some people looking at it as an investment,” said Brown. “But a lot of them are scared. They’re scared they won’t be able to buy one down the road.”
Background checks typically spike during the holiday shopping season. Some of the increases in the most recent FBI numbers can be attributed to that. But the number of background checks also tends to increase after mass shootings, when gun enthusiasts fear Congress may enact restrictions.
Statistics show Tennessee saw among the highest increase in gun checks at the end of last year, with 91,922 background checks in December, up from 59,840 in November.
A federal background check doesn’t always mean a new gun is purchased, but the firearms industry uses the figures to gauge gun demand.
At Pigeon Hill Gun Shop, Basham said he would be making more sales if the guns people wanted were available.
“I could probably sell five P95 Rugers this week if I could get them,” said Basham, referring to a high-capacity handgun that can hold 16 rounds. “The problem is you go to order them and everything is allocated. You can’t get it.”
Similarly, he says ammunition is extremely difficult to find.