About 300 people have already applied for a Georgia Weapon Carry license in 2012, according to Richmond County Probate Court records. Last year, about 1,600 permits were submitted. At the current rate, applications could nearly double 2011’s numbers by the end of this year.
Kayna Widener was driven to buy a gun after she saw a man attack a woman outside Augusta Mall months ago. She was the only witness.
The man fled after the
victim put up a struggle. Widener knows everyone isn’t as lucky.
On Friday, she practiced shooting a “Bad Guy” paper target with her Glock 26 at Shooters gun range. Her boyfriend, Sean Morgan, stood nearby.
“It definitely makes me feel better,” he said of Widener’s ability to defend herself.
Steven Fryant, Shooters’ store manager, said business has increased by 15 percent or more in the past two months.
“The overall climate around here makes people wary,” said Eddie Walden, the owner of Waldens, a gun store on Bobby Jones Expressway. “You hear about shootings every day. I think it’s had a big effect on gun purchases over the last few years.”
In the past two years, he estimates that purchases by women have more than doubled. Fryant described National Rifle Association instruction classes for women as going “out of the roof.”
Cori Puthoff is one of those new female gun owners.
“We had a dog, but we wanted more protection than that,” she said.
Puthoff and her husband, Chris, haven’t had any issues with crime, but they said they would rather be safe than sorry.
“I’m military and gone a lot, so it’s important for her to have it and be comfortable with it,” Chris Puthoff said.
For many customers, a new gun is an addition to a collection of weapons. But other purchases are brought on by fear. Walden said buyers will discuss concerns over recent crime in the news or their neighborhoods as they browse.
Some of those customers return
to the store after a year or so and sell the gun back.
“We get so many pistols that have never been shot,” he said.
Scott Prince, the gun department manager at Waldens, compared those purchases to the purchase of a beautiful piano.
“You can put it in your house, but just because it’s there, that doesn’t mean you can play it,” he said.
He always slips those customers a business card for an NRA instructional course.
In Aiken, training instructors are booked as far in advance as May. South Carolina requires a gun owner to pass a training course before obtaining a concealed weapon permit. Georgia requires that a person pass a background check for a permit.
Chuck Scott, the owner of The Gun Rack in Aiken, said recent crime in the city has increased his floor traffic by 30 percent to 40 percent.
In just more than 30 days from December to January, Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson and Master Cpl. Sandra E. Rogers were killed by gunfire. In October, Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy J.D.
Paugh was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“Gun sales have definitely increased,” Scott said. “We’re seeing quite a few first-time buyers and a lot of people wanting to improve their home defense.”
Retailers said they expect sales to continue to increase this year because of crime and it being an election year.
Uncertainty over a new president and policies can drive consumers to stock up on guns and ammunition.
Sales generally increased in 2008 and 2009, after the election of President Obama.