It's a busy shopping day at the Pecos Gun Shop. Customers wander
the store, staring at gun grips and revolvers and hunting rifles.
They consider the options, ask about prices, and - most important to
David Dodson - they buy.
Mr. Dodson, who runs the Tucson, Ariz., store, says the past few
months have been boom times. Sales have jumped 40 percent, and many
customers are first-timers.
"I think a lot of people who might have been antigun no longer
feel that way," Dodson says. "And if they were already thinking
about buying a gun, then [the terrorist attacks] pushed them over
Granted, guns are a way of life in Arizona, but since Sept. 11,
it appears that Americans nationwide are finding comfort,
increasingly, in a warm gun.
In Massachusetts, gun instructors are reporting 50 percent
increases in class size. In Virginia, the National Rifle Association
says a class required for carrying a concealed weapon has a month-
long waiting list. Florida saw a 50 percent rise in September in
criminal background checks that are required for carrying a
concealed weapon. And a Gallup poll taken a month after the attacks
found American's desire for stricter firearms laws had dropped, with
only 53 percent in support of such measures - the number had not
been below 60 percent for nearly a decade.
A familiar pattern
The rush for firearms and weapons permits in the wake of a crisis
is not uncommon. The Second Amendment takes on increased relevance
for many in shaky times. Following the Los Angeles riots of 1992,
for example, there was a rush to southern California gun stores.
Handgun sales in the state jumped from 329,000 in 1991 to 382,000 in
1992 and to 433,000 in 1993.
The motives are somewhat similar this time around, says Wayne
LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle
Association. Buyers understand that having a gun or a concealed-
weapon license would make no difference on an airplane, he says, but
they worry about other aspects of the war on terrorism.
"People are unsettled in this country," Mr. LaPierre says. "They
hear warnings of other threats that could come at anytime from
anywhere. And they don't know if they might be on their own for a
while if there is another attack."
In Arizona, a state where guns are so common that many roadside
cafes admonish patrons not to bring firearms inside, the gun rush
has been large scale, says Gary Lovetro of the Arizona Arms
Association. Gun shows and stores boomed as people become "more
aware of safety."
Just how much sales have risen nationally is open to question. …