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Why gun sales spike after mass shootings: It's not what you might think

After the Colorado shooting, gun sales have risen around the country. For some, it's because they want to buy a gun for self-protection. But there's a bigger reason, gun-shop owners say.

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A Palmetto M4 assault rifle is seen at the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo store in Parker, Colo. Gun sales have gone up around the country since last week's theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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As sure as summer follows spring, gun sales rise after a mass shooting. It happened after the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. It happened after the Tucson, Ariz., shootings last year that killed six. Now, after the killing of 12 people last week at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., gun sales are spiking again - not just in Colorado but around the country.

“We were overwhelmed Saturday,” says Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C., one of the biggest gun stores in the country. “We had to have 25 people on the counter to help customers. That’s very unusual for this time of year.”

Self-protection is part of the reason. But a bigger factor, say gun dealers, is fear of something else:  politicians – specifically, their ability to enact restrictions on gun ownership and acquisition of ammunition.

When a high-profile shooting takes place, invariably the airwaves are full of talk about gun control.

“Once people start hearing about that, they say, ‘Wow I was planning on doing this. I better do it now,’” says Mr. Hyatt.

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