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Maine gun shops see spike in sales after Lewiston shootings

Shoppers look at high-powered rifles displayed at a gun shop, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2002, in Gray, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Shoppers look at high-powered rifles displayed at a gun shop, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2002, in Gray, Maine.

It's been a busy week at The Outdoor Sportsman in Northport. In addition to the usual steady stream of deer-season customers looking for guns, ammo, and safety orange attire, there were buyers who cited a different motivation.

"Self defense," said manager Michelle Kosmo. "It was a really scary thing that happened, and it's unnerving not to be able to protect yourself, in the event that you needed to."

Kosmo is not alone. Gun dealers across Maine are reporting a surge in sales of guns and ammo to customers concerned about self defense. Kosmo said she's seeing a variety of customers, including many who are looking for handguns.

"New gun owners, looking to protect themselves," she said. "Old gun owners that are pulling out their guns out of the closet, and looking to carry, looking to get holsters, looking to get ammo, looking to get training, a little of both."

Other gun shops across Maine are reporting a similar spike in sales to customers concerned about home defense, and increased interest in firearm training courses.

"The courses have increased," said Joseph Cimino, who runs Top Gun LLC in Poland. "The amount of inquiries we get, I would say it's either doubled or tripled."

Cimino said sales of all models, including AR military style rifles, were up significantly this week.

"I will say it's almost evenly spread between shotguns — defensive shotguns — and pistols, and ARs," he said. "I'm not going to say that one category is any more than any other."

Cimino declined to say how many AR rifles he's sold this week.

This gun sale spike pattern is typical in the wake of mass shootings, according to Janice Iwama, of American University. Her research on gun sales in Massachusetts showed that they increased following mass shootings.

In the month after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the number of handguns purchased by first-time buyers in neighboring Massachusetts increased by more than 60 percent.

"It happens to not only have an impact on the local community, but across the country," Iwama said. "So the likelihood is that other states are probably also seeing a significant spike in the number of sales."

Iwama said sales after Sandy Hook peaked in the first week, but remained strong for up to three weeks.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.
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