US sees surge in gun sales as families mourn Aurora dead
THE United States is seeing a surge in firearm sales in the wake of its latest bloody massacre, as gun enthusiasts stock up in fear of restrictions being tightened – even though that is unlikely to happen.
In Colorado, where 12 cinema-goers were killed and many more injured on Friday, approved background checks for would-be weapon owners are up 43 per cent on the days before the shooting spree.
But despite the gun lobby’s apparent concerns over calls for tougher legislation, there appears to be little political will in Washington to address the issue.
Both president Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, have shied away from addressing the issue of the availability of firearms in a country where household gun ownership is already higher than anywhere else in the world.
James Holmes is accused of entering a cinema in Aurora, Colorado last Friday night, armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle equipped with an extended magazine, plus a shotgun and two handguns.
The weapons had been bought legally at stores in the state. He was also able to amass a stockpile of 6,000 rounds of ammunition from internet purchases, police have said.
But despite the ease in which Holmes was apparently able to build his deadly arsenal, there appears to be little desire to restrict the number of guns being bought across America.
Mr Obama and Mr Romney – both mindful of the influence wielded in Washington by the gun lobby, plus the unpopularity of perceived civil liberty restrictions in an election year – have said little about the state of current gun legislation.
Quizzed over the possibility of a review, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment, other than to say Mr Obama supports “common-sense measures” that protect the constitutional right to bear arms while “ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them”.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time advocate of tighter gun controls, has been one of the few high-profile US politicians to speak out.
Within hours of Friday’s shooting he challenged Mr Obama and Mr Romney, saying: “Maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”
Given how attached many in the US are to the constitutional right to bear arms, it is unlikely that Washington will heed Mr Bloomberg’s words. Nonetheless, it has prompted many people to stock up on weapons, in much the same way that they did after Mr Obama – who as a senator advocated a ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles – became president in 2008.
In the three days immediately after Friday’s shootings, officials in Colorado approved background checks for 2,887 people wanting to buy a firearm – up 25 per cent on the average Friday to Sunday period.
And it is not just Colorado that has seen a bump in sales. Across the country, people are stocking up.
Larry Hyatt, owner of North Carolina’s Hyatt Gun Shop – America’s largest privately-owned weapons seller – said that the abrupt uptick in sales caught him unawares.
He said: “Traditionally, July is our slowest month. But last Saturday was as big as it was the last week before Christmas … we had 25 people serving. We had six times more sales than we did the previous weekend.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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