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More in US carry guns; restrictions lose support

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It's a busy shopping day at the Pecos Gun Shop. Customers wander the store, staring at gun grips and revolvers and hunting rifles. They consider the options, ask about prices, and - most important to David Dodson - they buy.

Mr. Dodson, who runs the Tucson, Ariz., store, says the past few months have been boom times. Sales have jumped 40 percent, and many customers are first-timers.

"I think a lot of people who might have been antigun no longer feel that way," Dodson says. "And if they were already thinking about buying a gun, then [the terrorist attacks] pushed them over the edge."

Granted, guns are a way of life in Arizona, but since Sept. 11, it appears that Americans nationwide are finding comfort, increasingly, in a warm gun.

In Massachusetts, gun instructors are reporting 50 percent increases in class size. In Virginia, the National Rifle Association says a class required for carrying a concealed weapon has a month-long waiting list. Florida saw a 50 percent rise in September in criminal background checks that are required for carrying a concealed weapon. And a Gallup poll taken a month after the attacks found American's desire for stricter firearms laws had dropped, with only 53 percent in support of such measures - the number had not been below 60 percent for nearly a decade.

A familiar pattern

The rush for firearms and weapons permits in the wake of a crisis is not uncommon. The Second Amendment takes on increased relevance for many in shaky times. Following the Los Angeles riots of 1992, for example, there was a rush to southern California gun stores. Handgun sales in the state jumped from 329,000 in 1991 to 382,000 in 1992 and to 433,000 in 1993.

The motives are somewhat similar this time around, says Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. Buyers understand that having a gun or a concealed-weapon license would make no difference on an airplane, he says, but they worry about other aspects of the war on terrorism.

"People are unsettled in this country," Mr. LaPierre says. "They hear warnings of other threats that could come at anytime from anywhere. And they don't know if they might be on their own for a while if there is another attack."

In Arizona, a state where guns are so common that many roadside cafes admonish patrons not to bring firearms inside, the gun rush has been large scale, says Gary Lovetro of the Arizona Arms Association. Gun shows and stores boomed as people become "more aware of safety."

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