According to FBI data, June and July have consistently been the slowest months for gun sales during the past decade.
This year is an exception.
William Debow said he has seen more traffic at his store, Ponderosa Trading Co. in Burke County, since a gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., on July 20. The most requested items are assault-type weapons and any firearm with high-capacity magazines.
“Aurora has pushed people in because there’s more talk about gun control,” DeBow said.
In the week after the shootings, Eddie Walden, the owner of Waldens on Bobby Jones Expressway, saw an increase in interest in AR-15s – “more than what we would normally see.”
With calls increasing for stricter gun controls and bans on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, people are stocking up on guns and ammunition, the gun store owners said.
“There’s a lot of buying based on fear that they’re not going to be able to get it in the future,” Walden said.
He said he has seen an increase in first-time buyers over the past four years, and the high-profile shootings in Aurora and at a Wisconsin Sikh temple are only causing those numbers to multiply.
DeBow said he’s had customers travel more than an hour to his store searching for a gun they’re confident can save the lives of their loved ones if need be. Since the Aurora shooting, he’s seen a 25 percent increase in sales of smaller, concealable weapons, most of them from first-time buyers.
Richmond County Probate Court records show increased interest in carry and concealed-weapons permits since last year.
In 2011, about 1,600 applications were filed for permits. From January to July of this year, 1,252 were filed, an increase of 300 over that period a year ago.
According to reports by The Associated Press, that same trend – more sales and permit applications – is happening in many states.
“People are cutting back on a lot of things, but not guns,” DeBow said.
Shop owners expect interest in guns to keep growing.
“Election years are always big,” Walden said. “There’s always a fear that certain parties will come out with more legislation and gun control.”
He’s already seeing numbers start to build toward what he was seeing in 2008, when a “ridiculous amount of guns” were coming off the shelves as the Democratic Party won control of Congress and the White House.
DeBow recalls it being difficult to keep ammunition on the shelves during election time in 2008. He’s expecting to see a similar pattern this year, with inventory dropping and prices increasing.