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U.S. firearms sales up as White House unveils gun control proposals

By Matthew Rusling (Xinhua)

13:39, January 17, 2013

CHANTILLY, the United States, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Donnel Dover, general manager at the gun shop Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, can hardly keep up with the flow of customers recently as he mans the cash register.

Business is humming even on a weekday, as customers meander around the store and browse a range of automatic rifles on showroom walls and handguns encased in glass.

U.S. gun sales are soaring nationwide, just as President Barack Obama unveiled sweeping measures Wednesday aimed at curbing gun violence one month after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut that killed 20 elementary school students.

At gun stores nationwide, business is booming, and one particularly well-selling firearm is the AR-15, used in the Newtown killings.

"Right after the shooting, there were more people in here, more people with questions," Dover said, referring to last month's massacre.

But it was the fierce gun control debate that erupted in Washington on the heels of the shootings that sparked a rise in gun purchases, he told Xinhua.

"With a lot of customers, it was 'I was thinking of buying an assault rifle, but I wasn't in a rush for it but now I want one because I don't want to lose out on an opportunity to have one,'" he said of his customers' decisions to purchase a firearm.

Indeed, U.S. states including Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Nevada and California saw background checks -- required of those purchasing firearms at licensed dealers -- soar after last month's shooting spree in Newtown, when a gunman sprayed classrooms full of children with bullets.

Overall, the U.S. saw 2.2 million background checks for gun sales last month, a sharp increase of nearly 59 percent from the same month in 2011, according to gun trade-group National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne N. Geller said December requests for criminal background checks in that state saw a 79 percent increase from the same period the previous year, on top of the typical rise that comes around the holidays, during hunting season and during election years.

"We had record number of transactions (background checks) following Newtown, but all of that factors in," she said, adding that one day saw 5,000 background checks, up more than twice the average 2,000 checks per day in that state.

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