Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Gun sales booming in Florida after Sandy Hill shooting

Gun sales in Florida have surged since last week's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.

Statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show that requests for background checks on the state's new gun buyers began to rise on the day of the shooting.

At least one local gun shop owner said buyers are particularly seeking assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, which were used by Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Connecticut tragedy, and are likely to become the target of gun control proposals.

"It means they're going to be more of a problem," said Art C. Hayhoe, executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "The more that are sold, the more difficult it's going to be to do anything about them."

On Friday — the day of the shootings — the FDLE took 4,805 background check requests, the highest number of any day in December up to that point and more than any day in December 2011.

On Saturday, the FDLE took 6,945 requests, a 44 percent increase from the previous Saturday. On Sunday — typically a slower day for gun sales — 3,171 background checks were requested compared to 2,155 the previous Sunday.

And on Monday and Tuesday, the most recent days for which data was available, the trend continued, with 5,735 checks on Monday, nearly double a week earlier; and a whopping 7,105 checks on Tuesday — a 135 percent increase over the previous Tuesday.

In December 2011, daily background checks eclipsed 4,000 only once.

The sales spike comes as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are endorsing sweeping gun control measures after the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Local gun shop owners confirmed business was brisk.

Doug Jackson, owner of Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park, said assault rifles and high-capacity magazines were selling particularly well.

When asked what was making sales increase so dramatically, Jackson said, "It's the media driving it more than anything else." Jackson said the issue was too sensitive for him to comment further.

A manager at the home office of Shoot Straight, a chain of gun shops and ranges based in Apopka, declined to comment, saying he was too busy.

Nationwide indicators suggest that the boom in gun buys is not unique to Florida.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that gun stocks were up, most notably Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and Sturm Ruger, reversing losses that some gun manufacturers experienced Friday in the shooting's immediate aftermath.

The Washington Post also reported that prices for handgun magazines were increasing on eBay and semiautomatic rifles were selling out at Wal-mart stores.

The Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C., racked up more than $1 million in sales Tuesday for the best single-day performance since the store opened in 1959, according to Justin Anderson, director of online sales. Topping the list was the Bushmaster AR-15, the model used at Newtown that sells for as much as $4,000 and had almost sold out, he said.

Revenue at the shop, one of the largest U.S. gun stores, surpassed even the spike just after Obama was elected president in 2008, Anderson said.

Speculation over stricter gun laws will continue to boost sales, Anderson said.

"It's kind of the perfect storm for the gun industry," he said. "When these things happen, even though it's sad, it does pick up sales."

Dan Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8321.

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