In the wake of several high-profile mass shootings across the country — from a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, to an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, to a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma — gun sellers report a noticeable spike in both sales of firearms and enrollment in training courses.
It is a trend that has been observed following similar tragedies for years. An analysis of FBI data from the Brookings Institution, for example, found spikes in background checks for firearm sales following the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, San Bernadino, California, and Parkland, Florida.
Jacquelyn Clark, owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training, and Retail Center in Lakewood, says her shop has seen a 60% increase in registrations for concealed carry training courses in the past week.
“I think it’s because people are observing what’s happening and thinking, "What if that was me? What if that was my kids?"” Clark said. “So, many people turn to firearms as a method of self and home protection. And we’re always happy to see them going after the training. That shows that they want to be educated and do it the right way.”
Edgar Antillon, founder of the group Guns for Everyone, similarly says he sees more individuals reach out for training after high-profile shootings. His group has instructed nearly 100,000 students across Colorado.
“A lot of these people are people who’ve been holding it off for quite some time,” Antillon said of the people who have reached out for firearm training. “They’ve already been thinking about it. And in that process, [these mass shootings] happened, unfortunately, and that’s kind of what pushed them over the edge.”
For Antillon, the increase in course enrollment is the good news. Trained gun owners, he says, are not only more able to identify dangerous individuals, but also are less likely to harm themselves.
“We’ve seen this during the pandemic,” Antillon said, referring to the massive increase in sales that occurred amid the pandemic lockdowns and civil unrest that followed. “When you had a lot of shutdowns, you had a lot of gun sales, but a lot of facilities couldn’t facilitate the in-person classes. So you have an outrageous amount of people buying guns for the very first time and nowhere to go train.”
The state of Colorado requires universal background checks for all gun sales. According to state data, more than 443,000 "instachecks" before sales were reported in 2021. Of those, only about 2% were denied sale.
Clark says the concealed course for beginners at Bristlecone was completely full this week — surely a reflection of greater anxiety amid recent headlines. Regardless of her students’ decisions after completing the course, Clark believes that’s a good thing.
“Attending that class for these students was a great first step,” Clark said. “They're interested in finding the right type of protection model for them. If it's going to be a firearm, they want to make sure that they have the right fit, the right caliber, and that they have training that they can use as a foundation to build upon.
“We do have people that take these classes all the time, though, that come out of it and say, "You know what, I actually don't want to carry and a gun is not the right tool for me."”