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There has been a sudden surge in the demand for guns across the US following President Barack Obama's promise to tighten gun controls, in the wake of the December 2015 mass shooting at San Bernardino, California. Fourteen people died in the incident.
Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store, a shop and shooting range in Las Vegas, Nevada, said: "We're seeing a huge increase in first-time buyers. I wouldn't describe it as a frenzy, because people are not frantic, but it's big. The bump started after San Bernardino and then got topped up by Obama."
A key point indicated by Irwin was that 90% of his current sales are handgun, of which half were sold to novices, whom he called "I've got to get a gun [clientele]". He added that most of these novices did not know the difference between a revolver and an automatic weapon, "If it goes bang and a bullet comes out, then that's OK."
Other key observations among buyers, according to Irwin, was that women — who earlier accounted for just 20% of the sales — now accounted for half and that overall there were more buyers in the 24 to 34 age group than before.
Irwin said after the 2 December 2015 attack on the health department building in San Bernardino, which is a relatively small Californian county town, people were buying guns with an objective of self-defence.
This is not the first time that fears of tighter gun laws have resulted in more sales. Three years ago, US gun sales surged in a similar fashion amid fears of a regulation coming into place that could restrict purchasing a gun, following the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut. The sales eventually dropped after news about such regulations stopped appearing in the headlines.
Chris Krueger, an analyst with Lake Street Capital Markets, said an additional reason for the rise in sales of guns was because of customers who desire to have the latest gadgets. "They are comparable to the type of person who has to get the latest iPhone when it comes out, even though their old one is fine," he said.
Apart from stores, publicly listed companies too have benefited ahead of an announcement by Obama that he would take action to compel more gun sellers to obtain licences and more buyers to undergo background checks.
Publicly traded Smith & Wesson, the world's biggest gun manufacturer, and its peer Sturm Ruger & Company both saw their shares increase by double digits recently, according to The Times.
According to Krueger, an estimated 310 million guns are there in the US for a population of nearly 322 million. However, this proportion is declining. While 47% of households had a gun in 1973, the figure fell to 31% by 2014, Krueger added.