At H&H Shooting Sports Complex and similar stores, display cases that once were full of military-style rifles are empty.
An FBI system for doing criminal background checks on prospective gun buyers is busier than ever.
Public interest in purchasing guns appears sky-high.
Some people are concerned about tighter gun regulations in 2013, and others feel they need to be armed against the kind of people responsible for highly publicized mass shootings, said Miles Hall, president and founder of H&H.
“The largest gun sales in the history of the industry are happening,” Hall said. “With everything we're hearing, December's numbers will be off the charts.”
H&H sold 2,000 military-style rifles in two days, Hall said.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System was used to check prospective gun buyers more than 2 million times in November, the highest in the 14-year history of the system. While it does not represent the actual number of firearms sold, the number is a gauge of public interest in purchasing guns.
The system, referred to as NICS, checks a person's criminal background to determine eligibility to buy a gun through a licensed firearms dealer.
“Since Black Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, the FBI NICS section has experienced an equivalent of five Black Fridays (more than 155,000 transactions each day),” officials said in correspondence with email-list members.
Hall said sales were already high before the Newtown, Conn., shootings, but talk of stricter gun restrictions has driven traffic even more.
“We sold more guns last Tuesday than we would in an average month,” Hall said. “Wednesday was double that.”
Since the Newtown tragedy, some lawmakers have called for increased firearms restrictions, including the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban that restricted the manufacture, sale and possession of certain semi-automatic weapons. The ban was passed in September 1994 and expired in March 2004.
President Barack Obama has said he supports a plan by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to reinstate the ban.
“People are noticeably talking about what the president and pundits have said,” Hall said.
Hall's store has sold out of AR-15s, military-style semi-automatic rifles like the one used in the Newtown attacks.
Officials have said one of the weapons used in the school shooting was a .223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Waiting lists for the rifles are full, and the store is no longer keeping one, Hall said.
“We sold completely out of all platform units that could be sold to the general public, as well as magazines and many other accessories for these firearms,” Hall said.
Hall said popular television shows are bringing in new customers.
AMC's zombie thriller “The Walking Dead” has popularized target shooting and piqued interest in shooting in general, he said.
Mike Blackwell, owner of Big Boy's Guns & Ammo, said there was a surge of gun purchases following President Barack Obama's election in 2008 and re-election last month. Talk of stricter gun laws has encouraged even more sales.
“It's created a fear-factor,” Blackwell said. “People want to be able to possess something that's still legal.”
Blackwell said the swell in sales has been primarily of the military-style guns like the AR-15. He has sold more than 200 in the past week, compared to the few dozen he normally sells in that time period.
In December, the shop sold 40 percent of its inventory in seven days. The shop normally has about 1,800 firearms in stock.
A wall in his shop normally full of rifles was empty Thursday, and Blackwell said the sales staff is stretched thin.
“We've had a huge influx of people and have called in seasonal help, family and friends to work.”