Gun Sales Shot Up on Black Friday

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Ethan Miller / Getty Images

A gun store clerk shows a rifle to a customer in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gun shops rang in the holiday shopping season with a bang. Black Friday 2011 set the biggest one-day record of background check requests for hopeful gun buyers, eclipsing the previous record by 32%, according to the FBI. The agency saw 129,166 requests for the instant background checks required for all firearm buyers. The previous high was Black Friday 2008, which drew 97,848 requests.

Though it’s unclear why guns were such a popular purchase this Black Friday, it’s fired up a dialogue between the two opposing sides of gun laws. “The laws have changed, and it’s a lot easier to give firearms as Christmas presents,” Andrew Molchan, director of the Professional Gun Retailers Association, told the New York Daily News. Many cities have relaxed gun laws in recent months: Seattle recently struck down an old law that banned carrying guns in parks. And history shows that gun purchases spike after major events, such as January’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz. as citizens seek to better protect themselves.

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But Black Friday lent little cause for increased protection, unless shoppers were arming themselves against the prevalence of pepper-spray during their morning shopping runs. Gun control advocates were quick to strike down the hype surrounding a gun-buying trend. “It’s possible that gun companies are just catching on to creating a Black Friday frenzy for themselves,” Dennis Henigan from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence told USA Today. South Carolina’s Palmetto State Armory offered discounts so attractive that their website was crippled by a crush of traffic. What’s more, the state of South Carolina even imposed a sales tax holiday on all gun purchases on Black Friday. And the sales are working, it seems, attracting the prime early-bird shoppers: women. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 25 percent of the purchases are first-time gun buyers, many of them women.

But firearm frenzy it is not: gun ownership has been on the decline for the past decade. In 1997, 40% of American households owned guns, and in 2004, the last time a widespread survey was conducted, only 36.5% did. While sellers did report a surge in sales after Obama’s election in 2008, concerned that their gun rights would change, the trend tapered off. Can this latest wave of gun sales blast sellers back into profitability?

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