Georgia gun sales and permit applications soar post-Newtown

Gun sales and permit requests have surged across metro Atlanta since the Connecticut school massacre last month, a trend many say will continue as Congress considers tougher gun control measures.

In December, Gwinnett’s weapons carry applications doubled from the previous December, rising to 1,082. Cobb County saw an 89 percent hike to 1,212 last month.

Fulton and DeKalb saw increases of 39 and 40 percent, respectively, with Fulton receiving 732 applications and DeKalb 398.

Behind the boom, several gun shop owners and experts said, is a mix of fears — of being touched by violence and of tighter gun restrictions. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) has vowed to file a bill that would ban so-called assault weapons and ammunition magazines, strips and drums that can accept more than 10 rounds.

“Anytime there are tragedies in the news and talk of gun control, that always boosts sales,” said Keith Thompson, manager of Range & Guns in Forest Park. “Business seems to be driven a lot by crime and politics.”

Several gun shop owners from across the region said they saw a mild spike in sales after President Barack Obama’s re-election. But they said that was minor compared to the surge in demand for guns, especially AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, post-Newtown.

Before the school shootings, Thompson sold one or two AR-15 rifles a week, he said. After the tragedy, the shop averaged three or four sales a day before his stock ran out.

“Anything AR-15-related we have sold out of,” he said this week, adding that overall sales in December were up 90 percent over the previous year. “We have a lot of regular customers watching the news and observing politics who are worried about bans.”

The Newtown tragedy also prompted many Atlantans to become first-time gun buyers, said Jay Wallace, owner of Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna.

December marked his busiest month in three decades of business, he said. His 80,000 square foot store and range were so busy it was “unmanageable,” he said.

“It’s all the people that have had in the back of their mind that they need a firearm,” Wallace said.

And while his business is thriving, he’s uncomfortable with what he believes is the underlying reason.

“I don’t want to be busy for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “I don’t want to be busy because of a tragedy.”

Doug Clayton, of the Bulls Eye Marksman Gun Club in Cumming, also had a record month in December. He sold out of his store’s entire inventory, twice, and couldn’t restock.

“Our distributors had no more,” he said. “It still hasn’t replenished.”

Jerry Henry, executive director of the non-profit gun rights group, said the organization is also gaining members at a rapid clip.

Members are abuzz, he said, with worry over proposed new restrictions. Some fear that their guns could be seized by the government, he said. Others are unhappy with proposals that would require them to register semi-automatic hunting weapons with The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (Some guns, including fully automatic machine guns, as well as sawed-off shotguns and silencers must currently be registered if they are operable.)

“It may not be that bad, but those are the things people are talking about,” he said.

Dave Sevigny was among those shopping for a new gun Monday at Adventure Outdoors. Sevigny, a world champion handgun shooter and firearms instructor, came to replace a gun he sold to a family member over the holidays.

He wasn’t surprised by the rush at all, he said, and has grown to expect such surges following tragedies or talk of gun control.

“Barack Obama has been referred to as the best gun salesman there is,” he said.

For those who have decided to purchase weapons for recreation or protection, Sevigny hopes they’re also arming themselves with training.

“I really hope that there is an equal number of people seeking training or proficient use of the guns they’re buying,” he said. “You want people to be safe and understand the implications of what they’re doing when they purchase firearms.”

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Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this article.