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Gun Sales on the Rise as Year 2000 Nears

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RALEIGH — Gun sales across the country are at a record high, and some people say it is because of Y2K fears.

The FBI conducted over one million background checks for perspective gun buyers during December alone -- up almost 15 percent from December 1998.

"This is the strongest month we've ever had," says gun dealer Mike Tilley. "This whole year has been real strong for us. A lot of people are really concerned about their personal safety."

Gun store owners take aim at the theory that Y2K fears have boosted sales. They say fear of crime is the biggest motivator.

"I think it's a natural fear because we live in a time of uncertainty," says gun owner Sean Montague, "but at the same rate I think there's a wave of paranoia that's sweeping the nation because of Y2K that may or may not be well-founded."

Greg Chesney has owned guns for years and does not think Y2K fears are fueling sales.

"I really don't think anything disastrous is going to happen, but I do think a bunch of people are going out and getting guns, or in my case I got a bunch of extra shotgun shells just in case something screwy happens," Chesney says.

Gun store owners say they are seeing a lot of first-time gun buyers, senior citizens and single people who are very concerned about protection.

"We're seeing folks purchasing handguns and long guns now," Tilley says. "They're first-time gun owners -- they haven't owned a gun, haven't seen a need for it. They're realizing that they're responsible for their own defense."

Tilley says that many first-time buyers he has dealt with are also learning to use a gun properly, as well as about gun safety, including the protection of children.

There is no way to really child-proof guns. The focus has to be on gun-proofing children. Some safety tips include:
  • Store weapons and ammunition in separate places. Do not assume a hidden weapon will stay hidden from your child. Teach children about gun safety. Drive these points:
  • Do not touch them.
  • Guns are not toys.
  • Immediately tell an adult you trust if you find a gun or see another child playing with a gun.
  • Some people, however, say even Y2K is not enough to get them to pull the trigger.

    "It's not for me, I don't mind watching it as a sport," says Cynthia Montague. "But as far as owning a handgun I don't think I would."

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    Amanda Lamb, Reporter
    Ron Pittman, Photographer
    Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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