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By BRIAN DOWLING email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
6:29 PM CST, December 18, 2012
Some gun retailers this week are reporting a spike in store traffic, in excess of the usual holiday rush, driven at least in part by fears of future firearms bans and other restrictions in the aftermath of the Newtown murders.
But even as foot traffic into some shops grew, a couple of large gun sellers pulled back.
Dick's Sporting Goods on Tuesday announced that it had removed all guns from sale at its Danbury location and was "suspending the sale of modern sporting rifles in all of our stores chainwide," while the nation mourns. Cabela's noted on its website that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle — the type used in the Newtown attack — and a number of other semi-automatic rifles would not be available at its Connecticut location, in East Hartford.
Since Friday's shooting, customers have crammed parking lots and thinned out inventories at some stores. Both enthusiasts and first-timers put in orders, bought firearms, and signed up for pistol permit classes.
Doug Odishoo, owner of Delta Arsenal in Meriden, said he noticed an increased interest soon after the shootings. "As soon as this shooting happened on Friday, I almost sold out of everything. Saturday I couldn't keep up with it."
He said people walked into hisshop, looking at the AR-style guns and saying, "I better get one before I can't."
Odishoo said customers looked at smaller, concealable handguns and rifles that they think might be banned. He said there was also more interest in both handgun permit classes and military- and police-style tactical training.
Demand for firearms swells with just a whiff of conversation about gun control. Background checks for gun sales jumped about 25 percent in November 2008, when Obama was first elected, according to FBI statistics. They were up nearly 30 percent when he was re-elected.
Recent tragedies in Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo., preceded jumps in applications as well.
Sales tend to jump "whenever there is increased talk or action about ownership to firearms being restricted in some way," said David Mustard, a professor of economics at Terry College of Businessat the University of Georgia. "What we are anecdotally experiencing now is consistent with what has happened in the past."
Resurrected talks of gun control, some shop owners said, are pumping up the market for rifles, especially AR, or assault rifles, like the Bushmaster's civilian version of the military's AR-15 that Adam Lanza used on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In Worcester, Mass., at Pullman Arms, co-owner Alicia Merritt called the jump in business "dramatic." She said she did $30,000 in business on Monday — up from a usual Monday of about $2,000.
Most of her sales, she said, were assault rifles, though she said she was also selling a number of handguns. "People want ARs because people are afraid there will be a ban on assault weapons," Merritt said. Like others, Pullman Arms said it was running low on inventory.
At Hoffman's Gun Center in Newington on Tuesday, the parking lot was full and overflow vehicles were parked on the grass. It had been that way for two days.
Asked whether the crowds at his store were normal for the holiday season or were due to fears of gun regulations following Friday's shooting, Scott Hoffman, the shop's owner, said, "It's a little bit of everything."
At Connecticut Sporting Arms in North Branford, owner Arnie Willhite said Tuesday that the stream of people buying guns and ammunition have left little stock for him to work with.
"We had a little left going into today, and most of that is gone," he said, attributing the spike in demand to the perceived possibility of new gun regulations.
Only one of a handful of stores contacted Monday and Tuesday said sales were normal for this time of year.
Meanwhile, Big Al's Gun and Premier Knife Show has canceled two shows, one scheduled for January in Danbury and one for February in Poughkeepsie. A man who answered the phone at show offices declined comment Tuesday.