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.
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