THE number of people seeking to buy guns in Colorado has soared since last week’s mass shooting in the US state’s town of Aurora, say law officials.In the three days after the shooting, applications for the background checks needed to buy a gun legally were up 43% on the previous week.
The shooting at a cinema showing the new Batman movie left 12 people dead and 58 injured — 20 remain in hospital.
The suspected gunman appeared in court for the first time on Monday.
James Holmes, 24, is accused of throwing two canisters of gas into a busy midnight showing of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, before firing at random into the crowd.
Prosecutors say Holmes had legally bought his weapons and the thousands of rounds of ammunition he had stockpiled in his apartment, which he had booby-trapped with explosives.
According to data released by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, 880 people applied for the state-approved background checks on July 13, days before the shooting.
On July 20, the day following the shooting, the number was 1 216, and on the next day, 1 243. In total, 2 887 people were approved to buy a guns, an increase of 43,5%.
The bureau’s figures cannot confirm how many people then bought a firearm, but gun shop owners also reported a rise in sales.
Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in the Colorado town of Arvada, said sales were “off the hook”.
“What they’re saying is, ‘they want to have a chance’,” he told the Denver Post. “They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theatre.”
An employee at Baker’s shop, Jake Meyers, said there had been up to 20 people waiting outside when he arrived at work on the day after the shooting.
“A lot of it is people saying, ‘I didn’t think I needed a gun, but now I do’,” the Denver Post quoted him as saying. “When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing, ‘Hey, I go to the movies’.”
Brandon Baker, who owns the Rocky Mountain Guns & Ammo in the town of Park, only 15 miles (24km) from Aurora said his sales had gone up, as had requests for firearms training.
The Associated Press news agency said sales were also up in other states, including Florida, which recorded a 14% rise from the previous week, and Oregon, where July’s sales were up by 11% over June. Background checks in the days after the shooting were up 10% in Florida compared with the same period last month.
Law officials said gun sales have in the past had risen after significant events, including the election of President Barack Obama and the shooting in Arizona which killed six people and injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January 2011.
This is often attributed to fears that a mass killing could prompt the government to reconsider the Second Amendment to the US constitution, which gives people the right to bear arms.
A small group of Democratic lawmakers in Washington renewed calls on Tuesday to ban high-capacity gun magazines. But there is little expectation that gun control will be addressed by politicians in the run-up to November’s presidential election.
Holmes is due to be charged next week. The judge in his case has ruled that cameras will not be allowed into the hearing. It follows a request to the media by some of the victims’ family members that they avoid using the suspect’s name and his photos.
On Monday, he appeared dazed in court, prompting speculation about his mental state.
Twenty of the people he wounded remained in hospital on Tuesday, including six in critical condition.