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St. Louis Area Gun Shops Seeing More Sales, First-Time Buyers

Several local gun stores are reporting an increased demand for tactical weapons and training.
(via Flickr/Foxtongue)

Several St. Louis area gun shops are reporting a spike in sales, and some are attributing it, in part, to preparations ahead of an expected grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.

About two-thirds of the local gun stores St. Louis Public Radio spoke with report increased sales. Two stores, Marco Polo Outfitters in Chesterfield and Butterfield Gun Works in Ballwin, said they haven't seen a significant jump in sales.

Other stores said it's typical to see more sales at this time of year, thanks to deer season and the start of holiday shopping.

But several store owners attributed the increase to uncertainty over the grand jury investigating Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of Brown.

At Metro Shooting Supplies #2 Indoor Range and Training Academy in Bridgeton, the line of customers was 15 deep, and an associate reported that "sales are soaring," as is demand for training.

Carl Salley, the manager of Pistols and More in St. Peter's, said he is seeing more first time gun buyers, who are purchasing handguns and shotguns intended for self-defense.

"There is a lot of folks that are afraid that people are going to break into their houses or they are going to get shot at while they're at work or things of the sort," he said. "I would say that 95% of the people who are coming into the store in the last few days have been thinking about a gun for the past few years and this is just what pushed them over the edge."

That's a trend Joel Fields at Defensor Tactical in Valley Park has seen lately as well. He said his store has seen a "huge spike" in the number of customers asking for training for concealed carry weapons. Fields said his classes emphasize "the huge responsibility" of being a gun owner, the law, and the do's and don'ts of concealed carry.

"We are seeing an increase in CCW classes because of the situation in Ferguson," Fields said. "A lot of folks are scared and just want that knowledge to possibly help them in the event they have to defend themselves. I wouldn’t say every customer is that way, but we are seeing quite a few people that are telling us that...this situation has made them aware of how volatile things could be and they just want to protect themselves and their family."

At On Target STL, owner Karl Schoenbeck is also seeing a big demand for training. He said classes that used to only hold 10 people have been expanded to 12, and they are booked through mid-December. On Target STL has also sold $25,000 worth of guns in just four days last weekend - more than double what the store typically sells in the same time frame.

There's also more of a demand for ammunition. Patti Vernaci at A C Pawn Shop in St. Louis said more people are asking to buy ammo, which her store doesn't sell. She said she's had to turn away quite a few customers.

At the same time, Tim Wheeler, co-owner of Trail Creek Trade Company in St. Ann, said he doesn't want to increase sales by feeding people's fears; he simply wants to meet his customers' demands. He said his customers are responsible gun owners, who understand how to use their weapons.

But Wheeler said some other stores are "fear-mongering" and taking advantage of the situation to boost sales. That said, he's also seen an uptick in purchases.

"I sold one guy three guns," he said.