According to first-time gun buyer Lexy Kerr, 25, she watched the news of the mass shooting at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine, and thought about what she might have done in that situation. "A phone call wouldn't have saved somebody. A knife wouldn't have saved somebody. A taser wouldn't have saved somebody. Your best chance of survival in that situation is having a gun," Kerr said.
Gun stores in the area have reported unusually high sales of all kinds of firearms after the tragedy.
Store owners said buyers mentioned several reasons, including the fear of being targeted in a mass shooting and worries that the state or federal government may immediately limit access to guns in response to the incident. Some also talked about the possibility that they might encounter the shooter, although that was no longer possible since he was found dead on Oct. 27. (Related: Suspect in Maine mass shooting found DEAD.)
Northeastern Firearms in Turner, where Kerr bought a Glock 43X, only sells up to 20 firearms on a good day. Nick Ayotte, the store's 44-year-old owner, said they have been selling five times that since Oct. 26, the day after the mass shooting. He added that customers are preferring a lot of add-ons, along with holsters and attachable flashlights.
"We're seeing the fear. It's the reason people have used to finally do something they've been thinking of doing for a while," Ayotte said.
Ayotte's decision to open on Oct. 26, and during the comprehensive manhunt for the shooter, was not without opposition. He even received an email accusing him of taking advantage of a tragedy and selling the same weapons used by the shooter. Ayotte did not respond to the email.
First Due Firearms, a gun shop located six miles outside of Lewiston, opened on Oct. 27 as police divers checked around waterways and men in tactical gear trooped neighboring communities in search of the shooter.
Customers queued in the parking lot with a few waiting up to an hour to buy. The gun rush resembled the early days of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic when locals were jostling for toilet paper and pistols, said First Due Firearms owner Nate Maillet.
"I feel pretty strongly about everybody's right to have that protection. People use guns for the wrong reasons all the time. We just lived that. But people using it for the wrong reasons would never be a reason for me not to have it myself," Maillet said.
Maine does not demand permits to carry concealed guns and does not order background checks for private gun sales.
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