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David Corley of Shreveport, La., replaces a rifle on its display rack while browsing through the Rock River Arms display booth at the 35th annual SHOT Show, Thursday in Las Vegas.

Julie Jacobson, Associated Press

Gun-buying surge appears unparalleled nationwide

  • Article by: SARI HORWITZ and PETER FINN
  • Washington Post
  • January 17, 2013 - 10:12 PM

LAS VEGAS - The United States appears to be experiencing a record run on military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and some kinds of ammunition as buyers deluge stores in search of guns and bullets they fear will be banned by the Obama administration, according to firearms industry executives and market analysts.

Even allowing for spikes in gun sales that follow every mass killing in the United States and attendant political debates about gun control, industry executives said the surge seems unprecedented.

And it has emptied shelves of the kind of semi-automatic rifle that was used to kill 20 children and six educators in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the deaths that sparked President Obama's sweeping proposal for tougher gun laws.

In some areas, a buyer walking into a gun store now will have to wait up to a year to buy a military-style assault weapon. The prices of available semi-automatics have doubled as buyers bid up the dwindling supply, and stocks of Glock handguns are also low.

"I think there has been a pretty dramatic uptick in demand within one month," said Nima Samadi, who follows the gun industry for IBISWorld, a market research firm. "Certain locations are even running out of certain guns, and suppliers can't fulfill demand."

Samadi noted that 2012 was already a banner year for the gun industry, with projected 8.2 percent growth over 2011 -- just as 2008, another presidential election year, saw a significant increase in gun sales.

The health and financial muscle of the gun industry was dramatically evident at the massive SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) show in Las Vegas, where an estimated 60,000 people gathered to see, handle and buy firearms and accessories displayed by more than 1,600 exhibitors over more than 12 miles of convention space.

"2012 was a year of unparalleled growth and success for the firearms industry and its law-abiding customers," said Stephen Sanetti, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered in Newtown.

Sanetti said that more than 73 percent of retailers surveyed by the gun manufacturers' trade group had increased sales over the previous year and that first-time buyers have increased to more than 25 percent of all customers.

"By late in 2012, retail firearm background checks had experienced 20 consecutive months of growth," Sanetti said, indicating that gun stores were selling more weapons.

In December, the number of FBI background checks on prospective gun buyers increased in every state over November and over December 2011.

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