Background checks for gun purchases spiked 41 percent in Colorado after 12 people were killed inside a suburban Denver movie theater, according to state data.
In the four days after the July 20 shooting, dealers submitted 3,647 requests for state background checks required to buy a firearm, said Susan Medina, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That’s 41 percent more than the 2,583 requests during the same four days the prior week and a 38 percent increase over the 2,636 checks during the first Friday to Monday in July.
Debate over gun laws after high-profile shootings, like the one police say 24-year-old James Holmes was responsible for in Colorado, can prompt gun sales. Last year, one-day sales in Arizona jumped 60 percent after a gunman killed six people in a Tuscon parking lot and wounded others, including then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
“It’s not hunting guns they’re looking for,” said Larry Hyatt, owner of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Hyatt Guns, which claims to be the largest independent gun store in the U.S. “It’s self-protection handguns and military-type firearms.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to release data on background checks nationally since the Colorado shooting, said Stephen Fischer, a spokesman.
State data and interviews elsewhere suggested increased sales.
In Florida, there were 7,905 gun-related background checks from July 20 to July 23, a 10 percent increase over the same Friday to Monday period the previous week, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
At Hyatt Guns, customers were waiting when the retailer opened on July 21, Hyatt said, the day after the shooting. Holmes had a 100-round drum magazine clipped into the Smith & Wesson semi-automatic rifle police say he fired into a crowded theater.
Hyatt said he reassigned gunsmiths and Internet staff to double to 24 the number of employees available to help customers inside the store.
“It’s sad,” Hyatt said. “What we see is a lot of people worried these type incidents will cause more gun laws to be passed.”
At a gun show in Loveland, Colorado two days after the shooting, customers bought rifles, scopes and ammunition from dealers such as Mike Ellis from Greeley.
Ellis, 43, said he regretted that no one in the theater crowd shot back.
“If there were several people carrying arms it probably wouldn’t have played out as it did,” Elllis said.