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Sales of Glocks surge amid fears of limits

By Michael Riley
Bloomberg News / January 12, 2011

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WASHINGTON — After a Glock-wielding gunman killed six people at a Tucson shopping center last Saturday, Greg Wolff, the owner of two Arizona gun shops, told his manager to get ready for a stampede of new customers.

Wolff was right. Instead of hurting sales, the massacre had the $499 semiautomatic pistols — popular with police, sport shooters, and gangsters — flying out the doors of his Glockmeister stores in Mesa and Phoenix.

“We’re at double our volume over what we usually do,’’ Wolff said two days after the shooting spree that also left 14 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, who remains in critical condition.

A national debate over weaknesses in state and federal gun laws stirred by the shooting has stoked fears among gun buyers that stiffer restrictions may be coming from Congress, gun dealers say. The result is that a deadly demonstration of the weapon’s effectiveness has also fired up sales of handguns in Arizona and other states, according to federal law enforcement data.

“When something like this happens people get worried that the government is going to ban stuff,’’ Wolff said.

Arizona gun dealers say that among the biggest sellers over the past two days is the Glock 19 made by privately held Glock GmbH, based in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, the model used in the shooting.

One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent on Jan. 10 compared with the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to FBI data. From a year earlier, handgun sales ticked up 65 percent in Ohio, 16 percent in California, 38 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in New York, the FBI data show, and increased nationally about 5 percent.

Federally tracked gun sales, which are drawn from sales in gun stores that require a federal background check, also jumped following the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, in which 32 people were killed.

“Whenever there is a huge event, especially when it’s close to home, people do tend to run out and buy something to protect their family,’’ said Don Gallardo, a manager at Arizona Shooter’s World in Phoenix, who said that the number of people signing up for the store’s concealed weapons class doubled over the weekend. Gallardo said he expects handgun sales to climb steadily throughout the week.

Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old accused in the Tucson shooting, has a petty criminal record, yet there’s no evidence that his background contained anything that would have prevented him from buying a handgun in Arizona, where limits on owning and carrying a gun are among the most permissive in the country, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group.

Critics have focused on the extended magazine used in the shooting that would have been illegal until 2004 under the expired federal ban on assault weapons. The clip — still banned in some states, including Massachusetts — allegedly allowed Loughner to fire 33 rounds without reloading.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York, said this week that she plans to introduce legislation that would ban the high-capacity magazine. McCarthy’s husband was one of six people shot to death in 1993 by a lone gunman on a Long Island Railroad train.

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