"November could be my best month ever, with sales up nearly 100 percent year-over-year," said Scott Moss, the president of Forest & Field Outdoor Specialties, in Norwalk, amid a jam-packed store on a recent Saturday.
And its not just hunters picking up rifles, said Moss, who described his handgun sales as "off the Richter scale." The store, which had run state-mandated classes twice a month held five classes in November. Gun-store sales are one of the few retail bright spots.
The recent spike in interest in guns in Connecticut mirrors the national trend since October. Increases in background checks into gun and pistol permit applicants edged ahead 4.9 percent, 4.2 percent and 2.3 percent in the first three quarters of 2008, respectively, compared with the year-earlier period, according to the FBI. Since Oct. 1, those checks have skyrocketed 28.6 percent.
Gun buyers in Connecticut, like those in other states, said they are looking to pack heat for two basic reasons - first, they believe an Obama administration would make gun ownership harder either through legislation or taxes, and, second, they believe the economic downturn could spark an increase in crime. A first-time gun buyer in Forest & Field, a banker who wanted only to be identified as Russ, said he was looking to pick up a Mossberg shotgun because "I was so concerned about what I was seeing in the credit markets I felt I had to take this step to insure my family's safety in case there was a breakdown in the system."
Danny, a 38-year-old Fairfield County business owner, with a wife and three kids, let his pistol permit expire some time ago but had second thoughts this summer. "Reading article after article this year about the economy going bad and burglaries going up, I decided to re-new my license for my Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic," he said.
With more restrictive handgun laws in New York and New Jersey, those states are not seeing such a spike in gun-permit applications. In fact, in New Jersey, a spokesperson for the state police said there is "no significant increase" in gun-permit applications.
While there are some reports of increased gun sales from storeowners in New York, no statewide data are collected. From 2003 through 2007, the total number of new pistol licenses issued each year in New York dropped 16.9 percent, to 12,307 last year from 14,803.
"Women are right out in front as new buyers of handguns," says NRA certified trainer Jim Hutchinson, of Norwalk, who notes that attendance at his handgun training classes is up 50 percent this year. "Many students are professional women, aged 35-60, who feel the timing is right for a handgun purchase."
Profit potential in firearms hasn't been lost on the investment community. Cerberus Capital Management, famous for its 80 percent stake in Chrysler, owns firearms manufacturers Remington and Bushmaster. In fact, a Bushmaster assault rifle is one of the best-selling rifles in 2008, several store owners report.
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