Just as was evidenced after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, after Columbine and Tucson in 2011, and following the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, US gun sales have soared following the mass-shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, which killed 10 people and injured seven others. As The FT reports, gun sales this year could surpass the record set in 2013, when gun purchases surged after the December 2012 Sandy Hook murders.
Business has been brisk for Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns in North Carolina, since the Oregon community college shooting last week that left 10 people dead, including the 26-year-old suspect.
Mr Hyatt saw an even bigger surge in customers after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, before the gunman killed himself.
However, the calls for tighter gun laws lead to an increase in weapons sales. “Once the public hears the president on the news say we need more gun controls, it tends to drive sales,” said Mr Hyatt, who owns one of the largest gun retailers in the US. “People think, if I don’t get a gun now, it might be difficult to get one in the future. The store is crowded.”
“We don’t want our business to be based on tragedy but we have to deal with what we have no control over,” Mr Hyatt said. “And after these shootings and then the calls for tougher gun laws, we see a buying rush.”
In the first nine months of this year, 15.6m of the background checks needed to purchase guns from federally licensed sellers have been processed, compared with the 15.5m applications in the same period in 2013, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Strong sales this year have also boosted the earnings for the two of the largest gun manufacturers in the US. Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co have seen their stocks rise this year by over 88% and 67% respectively.
As Wired wrote back in 2012, the sharp spike in gun sales following mass shootings is not a new occurence and appears to happen for several reasons...
The desire to protect one's self In many cases, gun shootings followed by 24/7 media coverage prompt citizens to arm themselves, according to testimonies. In Aurora, for instance, Jake Meyers of Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo told The Post shoppers cited self-protection when checking out new weapons. "A lot of it is people saying, 'I didn't think I needed a gun, but now I do,' " Meyers said. "When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing — 'Hey, I go to the movies.'"
The fear of stricter gun laws Another logical factor is that gun owners' or soon-to-be-gun owners' sense a tide of gun control regulations following a massacre and seek to purchase guns ahead of fast-moving laws. Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, spoke to this following a 60 percent uptick in gun sales in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings in 2011. "Some Americans fear tougher gun control laws in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack so they want to stock up now," he told Politico. “What it shows is maybe gun owners in Arizona and these other states feel that there’s going to be some change in the law, which is what I hope our elected officials” trying to enact. Obviously, that fear has been unfounded. Since coming into office, Obama has been virtually silent on the issue of gun control, despite the protestations of liberals.
The feeling of uncertainty It's important to remember, spikes in guns sales don't just coincide with shooting sprees. They also coincide with violent events of any kind, as Fredrick Kunkle at The Washington Post reported. "People also rushed to buy guns after the 1992 riots in Los Angeles and the breakdown of order in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina." That has led some industry experts and law enforcement officials to point to a general feeling of uncertainty as a driver of gun buying habits. "People often buy firearms during periods of uncertainty," Gary Kleck, a researcher at Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, told the paper.
As Pew's most recent research found, America remains divided over the 'guns' issue:
Pew’s latest survey, conducted in July this year, found that opinions had remained largely unchanged since the Sandy Hook massacre.
Almost eight in 10 people surveyed supported laws to prevent people suffering from mental illness buying firearms, while 70 per cent backed the creation of a database on gun sales and almost 60 per cent wanted to see assault weapons banned.
“The public continues to be more evenly divided in fundamental attitudes about whether it is more important to control gun ownership or to protect the right of Americans to own guns,” Pew’s report said.
“Currently, 50 per cent say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 47 per cent say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.”