California gun sales shooting for record
SAN FRANCISCO — Legal gun sales in California are on pace to set a record this year, according to state projections, although no one can say exactly why.
The state Department of Justice expects that 725,000 rifles, pistols and shotguns will be legally purchased in 2012.
The projection is more than 100,000 more guns than were bought last year and nearly twice as many as were purchased five years ago.
Danielle Perry, executive administrator for Shooters Paradise in Yuba City, said she's seen the same trend locally.
"You've got an upcoming election, and I think that's why," she said, adding she processes her store's paperwork for all gun sales, so she sees the rise firsthand. "A lot of them think gun rights are slowly going to disappear after the election, so they figure they'd better get them now."
Within the past decade, firearm sales have increased dramatically across the state, a rise that officials and experts say is difficult to explain with any precision because the state doesn't track why people purchase the weapons.
"It is very hard to speculate why someone purchases a gun," Shum Preston, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, told the Associated Press on Friday.
Chuck Michel, a civil rights attorney who represents the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said that among factors contributing to the spike include concerns about public safety in a faltering economy and the potential for new laws that might someday restrict firearm ownership.
Michel, whose 40,000-member organization promotes firearm safety and gun rights, also said that from a cultural perspective, Americans — and especially women — have become more accepting of the value of firearms for self-defense and recreational purposes.
"This is a national trend, not just in California," said Michel, who also represents the NRA in California. "It results from a combination of factors. One is a strong desire of the good guys to be able to defend themselves and their families from the bad guys, and another is a big increase in participation in the recreational shooting sports."
Ben Van Houten, a managing attorney with the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, also said it's difficult to pinpoint a cause for the increase.
"The gun industry is always trying to carve out new markets and a lot of the marketing is an attempt to get them to consumer bases they haven't reached yet and I would suspect that is driving it towards women and other groups," said Van Houten, whose group was founded after a 1993 mass shooting in San Francisco's 101 California office tower that killed nine people, including the gunman.
Perry, at Shooters Paradise, said high-profile, violent events also have an impact. After last week's mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, she said, more people came in asking about both guns and getting their concealed-weapons permit.
"I would say it's quite a bit more," she said of how much the store's sales have increased overall this year.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Ben van der Meer contributed to this report.