DENVER // Gun sales are surging in the wake of the Colorado cinema massacre as buyers express fears that politicians may use the shootings as a reason to restrict the owning of weapons.
In Colorado, the site of Friday's shooting in which 12 died and dozens of others were injured, gun sales jumped in the next three days
Background checks on 2,887 people who wanted to buy a firearm were 25 per cent up on the average Friday to Sunday period in 2012 and 43 per cent on the previous week.
Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in Arvada, near Denver, said requests for concealed-weapon training "are off the hook." Interest in his four-hour course in gun safety, required for certification for a concealed-weapons permit in Colorado, has doubled since Friday.
"What they're saying is: They want to have a chance. They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theatre," Mr Rutan said.
Day-to-day gun sales often fluctuate, but the numbers also look to be up outside of Colorado, too.
Seattle's King county saw nearly twice as many requests for concealed pistol licences than the same period a year ago. Florida recorded 2,386 background checks on Friday, up 14 per cent from the week before. Oregon sales on Friday and Saturday were up 11 per cent over the previous month.
During the past decade, June and July have consistently been the slowest months for gun sales, according to FBI data.
Jay Wallace, who owns Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia, found that his sales on Saturday were up 300 per cent from the same day a year ago - making it one of the best Saturdays his business has ever had. He said customers are often afraid when there's a gun-related tragedy that an anti-gun agenda may follow.
"We shouldn't let one sick individual lose sight of freedoms in this country," Mr Wallace said.
Officials have said that the suspected Colorado gunman, James Holmes, methodically stockpiled weapons and explosives at work and home in recent months. He bought thousands of rounds of ammunition and a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle and two Glock pistols.
On Friday, clad head-to-toe in combat gear, he burst into a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, tossed gas canisters into the crowd and opened fire.
Police in the Denver suburb of Aurora say Mr Holmes also booby-trapped his apartment. He is now in solitary confinement at a local jail.
The rise in gun sales reflects but one of the anxieties created by the shootings. Since the massacre, there have been reports of chaos at cinemas, apparently sparked by misunderstandings or careless words.
A confrontation with a drunk man in an Arizona theatre led to about 50 people fleeing, officials said.
A southern California man was arrested after he referred to the Aurora massacre after the film didn't start on time. In New Jersey, a showing of Batman was cancelled after someone stood up during the movie, opened an emergency exit and then returned to their seat.
Nationally, the shootings have triggered a fierce debate over gun control and whether government has a role in reining in the ownership of firearms.
Gun sales often fluctuate based on news events, especially whenever people think the passage of more restrictive gun laws is imminent. Sales rose after the election of Barack Obama, the US president, when weapons enthusiasts expressed fear that the Democrat might curtail gun rights. FBI figures also show background checks for handgun sales jumped in Arizona after the shooting of US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011.
"It's not uncommon for us to see spikes in requests for concealed pistol licences when there's a significant gun-related tragedy," said Sgt. Cindi West of the King County sheriff's office in Washington state.
Some Democrats in Congress cited the shooting as evidence of the need for tougher gun control laws - particularly a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Congress, however, hasn't passed strict gun laws in more than a decade.