State News

NC residents rush to get gun permits, buy rifles

Posted December 19, 2012 5:51 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2012 6:07 a.m. EST

— From the outskirts of the capital to the state's largest city, North Carolina residents have rushed to secure gun permits and buy weapons in the wake of the shooting deaths at a Connecticut elementary school last week.

Aaron Byrd, co-owner of Patriot Shooting Sports in Youngsville, said he had a dozen AR-15s in stock before they were snapped up in about a day and a half following the Newtown shooting. Youngsville is just north of Raleigh.

"Things have been crazy the past couple of days," Byrd said. "A lot of people have been coming in looking to purchase semiautomatic rifles. They're worried that the government's going to ban semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, so they've been coming in looking for those. And we've sold out of all of them."

A gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle and several high-capacity ammunition magazines slaughtered 20 children and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at her home.

Just down the road from Youngsville, in nearby Rolesville, owner David Driver of Hunter's Haven said he has also sold the few AR-15s he had in stock. He said his shop focuses more on archery.

"More people are buying stuff for fear of other people, to protect themselves from the way society is going," Driver said.

Driver also said he thinks people are worried that a potential government ban means they won't be able buy semiautomatic weapons. He expressed his own concern that new laws will make it harder for him to buy such weapons.

"They're going to vote on this and they're not going to give us the opportunity to do squat," he said. "It is not a democracy — them telling me what I can and cannot do."

It's also been busy in Raleigh at Eagle 1 Supply, where the store has sold out of some of its rifles.

Brandon Worley said he's also seen an increase in the demand for gun safety classes.

It's unclear just how many people have applied for gun permits in Wake County. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said those numbers are tracked monthly.

Elsewhere, Julia Rush of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office said they usually see about 50 applications a day. Between last Saturday and Monday, the office received 290 applications.

Rush attributed the increase to the school shootings and to fear over a possible ban on assault weapons.

"The shooting made people more aware of their safety," Rush said. "I also think people are purchasing weapons right now thinking it's going to be an investment because possibly down the road they will be harder to get. Somebody made the comment that, 'Hey, this is better than an investment than in gold.'"

As many as 130,000 guns were sold across the country on Saturday, making it the third-biggest day for gun sales in U.S. history.

The number does not include the number of people who have applied for new permits in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Colorado set a single-day record for gun background check requests on Saturday, and some online retailers are removing assault rifles from websites in part because of diminishing supplies.