Gun Enthusiasts Grab High-Capacity Ammo Magazines

There have been reports that gun sales have increased since the Tucson shootings. In fact, there is no reliable information showing that gun sales have gone up. But there is growing interest among gun enthusiasts in the high-capacity clip used in the shooting. Buyers worry that these clips will be outlawed, if gun control advocates have their way.

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Try to stick to the facts, here. Some media reports this week have said that gun sales have increased dramatically since the shootings in Tucson, Arizona. There are some indications that gun sales have gone up in some places, though the national trend is actually modest.

One part of this story may be real. Gun enthusiasts are apparently snapping up the kind of high-capacity ammunition magazines used in last weekend's shooting. NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Federal statistics indicate that the background checks conducted for gun purchases did increase on Monday, but only by five percent nationally, compared with the same day last year. Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center says those numbers do not translate directly into the number of guns sold.

ABRAMSON: The FBI is very clear in saying that those numbers do not reflect gun sales, because they incorporate a lot of other things like background checks for concealed carry holders.

ABRAMSON: Some states, like Indiana, did see a 25 percent jump on Monday. But there could be many reasons for that - a special offer on a new gun, for example. Don Davis of Don's Guns and Galleries in Indianapolis says he has not seen much of a rise in sales. But people are coming to his shooting range to fire their Glock 19s, the handgun Jared Loughner used.

ABRAMSON: But we've noticed a lot of young people shooting their high-capacity Glocks and seeing - I think they're seeing how - why the guy couldn't change clips real quick, because it's really not that much of a big deal.

ABRAMSON: Davis says his customers want to see if they can reload more quickly than Loughner did. He was apparently tackled by bystanders as he tried to reload. He'd already fired off 31 shots in rapid succession, thanks to a special high-capacity magazine. He had another one of these with him, along with two standard magazines.

Those ammunition magazines are flying off the shelves at Glockmeister, an Arizona store in Mesa and Phoenix. Steven Zacker is the operations manager.

ABRAMSON: Specifically, the G-18 magazine, which is the 33-round, nine-millimeter caliber magazine, we've seen well over 1,000 percent increase in sales on that particular item.

ABRAMSON: Zacker says gun sales have not risen in his store. He says customers say they're concerned that these high-capacity magazines will be banned. And they have some reason. Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, which advocates for stronger gun laws, says her group is putting all its efforts behind getting these high-capacity magazines outlawed.

ABRAMSON: We think that the most effective thing that can be done - taking into account the current political climate - is to ban the manufacture and future transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines like the one used in the Arizona shooting.

ABRAMSON: Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy plans to introduce a ban on high-capacity magazines as soon as next week. It will face tough odds in this Congress. The National Rifle Association, which has opposed such laws, would only say that at this time, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate.

On its website, the organization makes no mention of the threat of additional gun controls. Steven Zacker of Glockmeister says he thinks some buyers are grabbing onto an item that might become rare and valuable. Whatever the reason, he's very uncomfortable with the attention his store is getting.

ABRAMSON: We want to high five and say, wow, wow, our numbers are just great and it's wonderful for business. But it's a terrible way to do well in business.

ABRAMSON: Analysts say it's much too soon to say for sure that the shooting has sparked new weapons sales. But they say, as a rule, when new restrictions are even mentioned, gun buyers tend to react quickly.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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