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Annual Gun Sales Soar Amid Pre-Election Angst, Proposed Laws


And just days from the election, gun sales are soaring. The FBI processed more than 2.3 million background checks last month. Those background checks are often the best available measure for gun sales. This was the most ever for the month of October and about 350,000 checks more than the same time last year. NPR's Nathan Rott reports gun shop owners and firearm manufacturers point to the election for the surge.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: As gun shops go, high impact tactical firearms in Southern California is relatively small. There are maybe a couple of dozen rifles and shotguns hanging on an olive green wall, handguns and boxes of ammunition in a glass case below. Owner David Strickroth says he typically sells a gun or two a day, but now...

DAVID STRICKROTH: And now I'm selling six or seven in a day maybe.

ROTT: To first-time gun buyers, many-time gun buyers, people that shoot for fun and people that want protection and a lot of people that are interested in semiautomatic rifles.

STRICKROTH: The AR-15, the AR-10 because they're afraid these are going to go away, so they are buying these guns.

ROTT: Customer Brett Guilford, a seasonal firefighter and hot shot, is among them. He brought in a bunch of guys on his fire crew a few weeks back, and he says at least six of them bought a firearm.

BRETT GUILFORD: Some of them didn't even shoot.

ROTT: But he says the threat of not being able to buy them...

GUILFORD: Just that alone made them want to come buy a gun.

ROTT: A gun store worker a few miles away compared it to the run that happened on Twinkies a few years back when it was announced that Hostess was going out of business. People want what they think they won't be able to have. Fueling that angst here in California is a 34-page initiative on the ballot this coming Tuesday with new gun regulations and a series of already passed gun laws that are going into effect later this year. On top of that...


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: She'll call 911.

ROTT: ...Is the rhetoric of the presidential campaigns and political ads like this one funded by the National Rifle Association.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But Hillary Clinton could take away her right to self-defense. And with Supreme Court justices, Hillary can.

ROTT: That's a claim the candidate herself has refuted repeatedly during her campaign, including the third presidential debate.


HILLARY CLINTON: I respect the Second Amendment that I also believe there is an individual right to bear arms. That is not in conflict with sensible, common-sense regulation.

ROTT: Now, the trend of rising gun sales itself isn't new. Annual gun sales here in San Bernardino County have increased 385 percent over the last 15 years, according to state data. Nationally, October marked the 18th month in a row that the FBI set a monthly record for process background checks. But the election has put things in a fever pitch. Gun manufacturers are seeing huge jumps in earnings this year compared to last, and gun shops around the country are seeing surges in sales similar to Strickroth, our gun store owner from earlier. Now, Strickroth himself is no Clinton fan. He says he won't be voting for her on Tuesday, but he also doesn't think that the sky would fall on gun owners if she's elected.

STRICKROTH: So all these guys saying that they're going to take everything personally, no they're not going to get to do that because eventually it gets to the court and the court says, well, no, you can't do that.

ROTT: Strickroth points to similar panics after the 1968 Gun Control Act and after the last two presidential elections. And sure, there are more limitations on what he can sell. There's more paperwork to do, but gun sales themselves are just fine. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.