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Terror fears, self defense spark high gun sales

Police run to cover at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The expected collapse in gun sales after gun control advocate Hillary Rodham Clinton lost to President Trump has not happened, due largely to growing concerns of crime and terrorism like last week's Tennessee church and Sunday's Las Vegas shootings.

Industry experts, surprised that 2017 has become the second highest year for sales, said that concern for personal safety has shifted the market away from hunters.

"Uncertainty breeds fear. For many people, the best way to salve that fear is by purchasing the one thing that is will virtually guarantee they don't become a victim: a gun," said Justin Anderson, marketing director for Hyatt Guns of Charlotte, N.C.

The evidence isn't just in gun sales and FBI background checks for those sales, at 16.3 million through July, but also in the surge of Americans seeking a license to carry a concealed weapon, typically a compact pistol. Some 12 million to 15 million permits have been granted.

Josh Powell, executive director of the National Rifle Association and boss of it's new Carry Guard branch, said that nine of 10 new sales are for personal protection.

"We know for sure that whether it's a natural disaster type of situation, what you've seen down in Puerto Rico, the looting that takes place, along with the fact that crime is going up particularly in inner cities, that people are deciding that this is the best way to protect them and their families," he said.

A competitor in the conceal carry world, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, is seeing similar growth. Its founder and president, Tim Schmidt, said, "Americans watch the news and are aware of what is going on around the world." That, he added, "is a huge contributing factor to the increase in the number of Americans hoping to protect themselves and their families by responsibly arming themselves through concealed carry," he said.

That's backed up at the street level, where background checks for July sales topped those of last July, according to the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System. So far, 2017 NICS checks are running 1.5 million less than 2016, the system's biggest year, and over 3 million more than 2015.

At Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C., one of the nation's biggest, women, minorities, and others seeking personal protection are lining up for weapons.

"There is a constant barrage of protests, riots and other issues. We are living in uncertain times. Uncertainty breeds fear. For many people, the best way to salve that fear is by purchasing the one thing that is will virtually guarantee they don't become a victim: a gun. The recent church shooting in Antioch, Tenn., is a perfect example. A bad guy with a gun came in bent on murder and a good guy with a gun stopped him," said Anderson of Hyatt, which offers protection courses.

"I have seen the personal defense market explode over the last few years and it's growing exponentially. Personally, I enjoy seeing more and more people taking responsibility for their personal safety," he added.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com