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Wis. background checks for gun purchases are up

  • Associated Press
  • December 28, 2012 - 11:24 AM

MILWAUKEE - Gun sales already appeared to be up in Wisconsin this year before they apparently spiked following this month's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in which a man shot and killed 20 children and six adults.

No agency keeps statistics on gun sales in the state or nation, but the number of background checks performed before a gun is purchased is often used to estimate sales. The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which runs the background-check hotline in the state, has handled 60 percent more calls this year as of Sunday than it did for the same period last year, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( http://bit.ly/WVMJt7).

The hotline handled 132,940 calls through Sunday, compared to about 89,000 calls for all of last year.

There appeared to be a spike following the Dec. 14 Connecticut shooting, in which a gunman killed 20 students and six adults. For the week of Dec. 9-15, the hotline took 3,738 calls, but the following week that number jumped to 5,930, state figures show.

That same general trend played out nationally. Calls to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System topped 2 million in November, the most for any month since the FBI began keeping track of the background checks 14 years ago.

In Wisconsin, the state runs background checks for handguns while the FBI handles background checks for long guns such as rifles and shotguns.

The number of background-check calls may not translate directly to the number of firearms purchased, however, since buyers who are purchasing multiple guns at once would still account for a single call.

Gun shop owners say the AR-15-style rifle, which was among the firearms used in the Connecticut shooting, is among the more coveted purchases.

Eric Grabowski, who manages the Shooters Shop in West Allis, said his store is selling AR-15-style rifles, parts and accessories as fast as it can stock them.

One reason for the demand could be a swell in public support for tougher gun-control measures, which could include restricting the sale of semiautomatic weapons such as the AR-15.

"When you get this gun-control talk and you have all these people who haven't gotten around to buying an AR-15 yet, they're saying, `I gotta buy one of those before something happens.'" said Steve Lauer, who owns Lauer Custom Weaponry in Chippewa Falls.

Grabowski said customers have been saying they're worried they won't be allowed to buy AR-style rifles in the future if tougher gun-ownership restrictions are imposed.

It's not just AR-style firearms that are selling well. Gun-shop owners say everything is in demand.

"Finding inventory is very difficult right now," said Megan Eaton, vice president at Fletcher Arms in Waukesha.

If the gun that buyers want isn't in stock, "people are going with their second and third choice," Eaton said. "They want to buy something."

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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