Al Bacon threw up his arms in disbelief as he put down the phone.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “But we knew it would be a zoo in here today.”
Bacon, owner of Al’s Gun & Reel in Derry, turned to speak to the half-dozen customers purchasing firearms — the number he usually sees on any given day. But it was only 1:30 p.m., and approximately 50 customers had already stopped by his store.
“Where are these people coming from?” he said. “I don’t understand. We’ve been out straight. My racks are drying out.”
Local gun dealers say sales of firearms and ammunition are soaring following the shootings of 26 people at a Connecticut school Friday. It’s a trend that’s being mirrored across the country as veteran gun owners and first-time buyers flock to gun shops to buy rifles and handguns.
The local dealers said the huge increase in sales was partly due to people feeling a need to protect themselves after the shootings. But, perhaps the main reason for the surge, was the fear of tougher gun control laws, they said.
Once Frank Robertson, 32, of Bedford heard of others rushing to buy weapons, he said, he wanted to make sure he bought his new AR-15 rifle at Al’s before it was too late.
Mason Walsh, 30, of Derry only needed ammunition, but he was afraid Al’s would be sold out after hearing of the increased demand.
“I’m trying to get things before they are not available or go up in price,” he said yesterday.
Robertson, Walsh and other customers said they could understand why people would want to purchase firearms before tighter gun control restrictions are adopted.
Lawmakers and anti-gun advocates across the country are calling for stricter laws and background checks after 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Lanza, formerly of Kingston, then shot and killed himself.
It was fear for their personal safety that brought one Derry couple to Al’s yesterday. The couple, who declined to give their names, said a recent break-in at their home prompted them to purchase a rifle and a handgun.
But it was the Sandy Hook shootings and the call for tighter restrictions that led them to buy weapons as soon as possible.
“We put a rush on buying a gun here because we are unsure what the government is going to do now,” the woman said.
She said tighter gun control laws would make it more difficult for citizens to protect themselves.
“It makes it more dangerous for everyone,” he said.
Bacon said although he sympathizes with those affected by the Newtown tragedy, it was the act of an unstable person — not firearms — that was responsible for what happened.
“This child was a ticking time bomb,” he said.
Other gun shop owners also said they have been flooded with buyers since Friday, including Bob Williams of Affordable Firearms in Pelham.
“It’s been very, very brisk,” Williams said. “Since it happened, you can’t keep the stuff on the shelves. They are afraid they are going to stop selling them.”
Williams said his business has doubled since Friday. People are eager to protect themselves while avoiding any tougher restrictions that could be implemented, he said.
The gun shop owners said both handguns and rifles are selling fast. Especially popular is the AR-15 semiautomatic, Williams said.
The increase in sales caused backups at stores because it was taking longer for the FBI to conduct background checks, store owners said.
Terry Goode, owner of Collectors Firearms & Militaria in Pelham, said he’s seen a steady increase in sales since the tragedy Friday.
But he’s seen an even bigger surge since President Barack Obama was re-elected in November because of the fear of tighter gun restrictions.
“There has been such an increase since the election,” he said.
The substantial increase in gun sales after the shootings is no surprise to attorney Penny Dean of Gun Owners of New Hampshire.
“I think it’s reasonable for people to say this could happen (here),” she said. “Tell me, what form of gun control could have stopped this?”
The Concord attorney said she’s heard that a recent brutal home invasion in Bedford prompted many people in surrounding communities to buy guns to protect themselves.
She said the fear for personal safety and the chance for more restrictive laws are prompting people to buy firearms while they can.
Dean is critical of some lawmakers advocating for stricter controls.
“It’s really sad for me to see people who want to ban these guns to try to do it for their own personal gain,” she said.