OGDEN — Black Friday gun sales and their related background checks hit record levels nationally and in Utah.
Gun store workers said Tuesday they believe the sales were more a sign of future gun regulation fears than an all-out blitz on spendy stocking stuffers.
“It was swamped in here,” said Darin Kendall, retail manager at Impact Guns in Ogden. “We had all our employees in here and there were probably four customers to every employee.”
And for Impact Guns, online sales surpassed those in the store.
Federal statistics pointed to a roughly 20 percent increase nationally over last year’s record number of background checks related to after-market gun sales. And in Utah, those background checks also set a new record.
“We were up 40 percent from last year and we were up 31 percent from our highest day ever on Black Friday, and that was in 2008,” Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Dwayne Baird said, rolling out data collected by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification.
There were 2,337 background checks submitted to the National Crime Information Center from Utah last Friday, the bureau reported. In 2008, 1,756 checks were submitted on Black Friday.
The demand across the country led to an average response time from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on Black Friday of three to four minutes. Baird said the usual response time was two to three seconds.
“It put quite a strain on everyone,” Baird said. “It made it difficult for those calling in.”
Baird said the phone queue never emptied between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. last Friday and was lined up 20 calls deep at a time. A number of people, Baird said, reported busy signals.
The numbers set November on a record sales pace as well. As of last Friday, there were 2,939 background checks related to gun purchases in Utah with one week left to go in the month. The bureau projected as many as 4,500 checks by month’s end.
Holiday gift shopping helped to fuel the gun buying. Kendall said parents commonly will buy simpler hunting-style rifles and smaller handguns to train their children how to shoot and hunt.
That was the case Tuesday for Adrian Kuester, who arrived at Impact Guns with his two sons.
“We’re getting a .22 for the kids and getting another couple of guns that we like to buy,” Kuester said. “When we’ve got time together we go up to the mountains or come to the range and just have a good time.”
Kendall said while holiday buying is significant, the high numbers are more attributable to politics and fears over the potential for another ban on so-called “assault weapons” — a term often confused to include black sporting rifles.
“Anytime people think they might have things either taken away from them or limited — whether it be guns or anything else — I think they just kind of go into a frenzy automatically,” Kendall said.
President Obama did not propose additional gun regulations in his first term in office, and it was unclear whether his administration had plans to push for one in his second term.
A comment Obama made during his second debate with Mitt Romney did raise concerns with the pro-gun crowd. During the Oct. 16 debate, the president suggested finding a solution to gun violence included “seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban re-introduced.”
Regardless of the political or holiday motivations of buyers, shoppers were anxious to make that trip to the gun store to make end-of-year purchases.
“Come and get the guns before they all sell out, and buy up and stock up on ammo,” Kuester chuckled.
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