Similar to what is going on nationally, El Paso gun stores have seen an increase in sales during the past couple of days as the debate about limiting guns has intensified nationwide.

Shane Koch, store manager for Sportsman's Elite Hunting and Gun Pro Shop, 7500 N. Mesa, said his store sold out of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines after President Barack Obama's speech Sunday in Newtown, Conn.

"The blowback from his comments is that he has sold every type of assault rifle off our shelves," Koch said. "People who don't even want an assault rifle have come in to buy one because they don't want the government telling them what they can buy."

Obama spoke Sunday night during a vigil dedicated to the victims of Friday's deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Aaron Bracamontes

Soon after classes began Friday morning, Adam Lanza, 20, broke into the school and shot to death 20 children, six adults and himself. Police later found that he fatally shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, 52, at their home before going to the school.

Reports said Adam Lanza used a semiautomatic rifle and two other guns in the shootings. Police said he also had "numerous" high-capacity ammo magazines with him.

Koch described the shootings as a nightmare scenario that kept him awake at night.

"I was sickened and outraged by it," Koch said. "Can you imagine getting a phone call from the school and being told to come and pick up your deceased child?"


Still shocked at the tragedy, Koch said that on Monday, after Obama spoke at the vigil, his store was flooded with shoppers and phone calls.

"We broke our record sales on assault rifles on Monday and Tuesday," Koch said. "For our other guns, we remained steady."

The number of assault rifles sold on both days exceeded any "holiday rush" the store had experienced in the past, Koch said.

Countrywide Shooters, 3950 Doniphan, also had a spike in assault-rifle sales after the president's speech.

"It's been positive for gun shops because we have had a lot of sales," said owner Valerie Moreno. "But it has been negative because if there are gun-control changes, we don't know what will be banned at this time."

The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System was taking a long time to use Monday and Tuesday.

It usually takes a few minutes to check someone's background information. But Koch said that Monday and Tuesday it took 30 to 45 minutes just to log on to the system.

"The FBI themselves were on overload," Koch said. "I don't think they were prepared for the rush."

At Countrywide, Moreno said she has not been able to do a background check for a couple days. "We can't even do background checks right now," she said. "Whoever buys a firearm just has to wait until we can get through and do their background check."

Shotguns and rifles for sale at Sportsman Elite, 7500 N. Mesa.
Shotguns and rifles for sale at Sportsman Elite, 7500 N. Mesa. (Victor Calzada / El Paso Times)

The only other time Moreno had a long wait for background checks was in 2008 after Obama was elected, she said.

Moreno said she has gained some new customers who want to get a gun before guns are banned.

"There are people who have never owned a gun but are aware of the situation and want to get something before they are gone," Moreno said. "There are also collectors who want to get their hands on something before it is too late."

Most Sportsman's Elite customers were worried that new laws will prevent them from buying assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and maybe even other types of guns, Koch said.

"As a manager of a business of this type, I would say our main concern is keeping inventory," Koch said. "We sold enough assault rifles to last us the next three months."

The next couple of months will determine whether Sportsman's Elite and other stores restock their shelves and window cases.

"I'm guessing that manufactures are waiting to see if (assault rifles) are banned before they make more," Koch said. "If I were them, I wouldn't want to make more guns if I couldn't sell them. And as a store we have to be aware, because if they increase restrictions, then some of our inventory may become illegal."

Koch said there have been other increases in gun sales, usually after public shootings, elections or any ratcheting up of gun control debates.

However, this time there was even more activity.

"After the Aurora, Colorado, shooting there was a very small increase," Koch said. "I believe it was (Obama's) comments that caused this week's sales to break records."

On Wednesday, Obama promised to make recommendations no later than January on new gun control legislation, which would be designed to prevent another tragedy like the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Aaron Bracamontes may be reached at; 546-6156. Follow him on Twitter @AaronBrac