Gun sales spiked in Connecticut this week -- just days after Adam Lanza opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown -- far surpassing the sale of handguns, rifles and shotguns during the same period last year.
Statistics from the state Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection reveal that retailers sold 1,220 guns in a single day Thursday, compared to 431 on the same day a year ago, records obtained by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers show.
Demand for guns in the aftermath of the massacre rose every day this week -- except for Sunday, when many gun shops are closed. Ammunition sales also were robust, according to a survey of gun shop owners.
"At this time of the year, we tend to see an increase in people purchasing guns for themselves as Christmas gifts," Vance said Friday. "But these numbers are a very big increase. Could it be as a result of this tragedy? It's possible."
On Dec. 14, the day Lanza stormed Sandy Hook, 756 guns were sold in Connecticut, compared to 375 sold in the state on the same day in 2011, according to records released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Hearst.
A day later, retailers made 941 sales. Only 365 guns were sold on that day in 2011.
In Connecticut, the figures released are for overall guns sales, Vance said, adding that the state Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection did not have the numbers broken down by type of firearm -- handgun, semi-automatics or long guns.
The FBI, which compiles national figures on background checks on prospective gun buyers, will not release state-by-state statistics until January. Those numbers will provide law enforcement agencies and public policymakers with a snapshot of how the Sandy Hook massacre affected the national outlook on guns.
The gun sales boom in Connecticut mirrors what other states have experienced after mass shootings.
Colorado saw a 40 percent surge after a gunman in an Aurora movie theater killed a dozen patrons and wounded 58 more with a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun and handgun. In Arizona, FBI data show one-day handgun sales rose 60 percent after a gunman killed six people in Tucson in 2011.
The same scenario played out after the Columbine, High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, when gun owners rushed to beat what they thought would be massive restrictions on assault guns.
Fear and a desire to protect oneself are natural reactions to a mass shooting, but Gary Kleck, a Florida State University professor who studies gun control, deterrence and violence, believes the spike in gun sales is only a "temporary blip."
"After shootings like this, it's a common reaction that people purchase guns," said Kleck, the author of "Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America."
"Most of the time," Kleck said, "it's people who were already looking to buy anyway, or it's people who already own guns anticipating the possibility that their preferred model of gun might be banned, especially if it's an assault weapon because what those are is so vaguely defined."
Since Sandy Hook, states as far flung as Florida, Pennsylvania and Alaska have seen gun sales rise sharply.
In Illinois, from the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, through Tuesday, that state's Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program processed 12,557 background checks -- double what it processed over the same period last year, the Associated Press reports.
Calls for more gun control have erupted since the Newtown massacre, with President Barack Obama backing renewed gun restrictions in response to the school shooting. At the same time, semi-automatic rifles are selling out at many Walmart locations.
"What we've witnessed is an immense tragedy," a salesman at the Connecticut Gun Exchange in Monroe said, adding that he's noticed more women wanting guns. "People may be concerned about their safety, or if they already have guns, they may be concerned about changes in gun laws."
Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, had legally purchased the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and Glock handgun her son used in the rampage that took the lives of 26 at Sandy Hook. Before driving to the school, he shot his mother in the head four times as she lay in bed.
As sales rocketed, gun buyers have found themselves waiting longer than usual, sometimes for hours, or having to leave stores without their guns because the FBI background check system was overwhelmed and kept crashing.
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