by Peter Mertz
AURORA, Colorado, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Although top U.S. politicians are avoiding the gun control issue with elections only three months away, data of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released this week shows Colorado is arming itself like never before after the deadly July 20 shootings.
"Our sales haven't stopped climbing since the Aurora shootings (at the Century 16 movie theaters)," said Warren Marshall, owner of G & G Guns in Lakewood Colorado, who sells about 750,000 U.S. dollars in guns a year to his clients. "With elections around the corner, our customers are afraid politicians will take away their guns."
Susan Medina, spokesperson for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who processes applications for background checks on new gun purchases, confirmed on Friday that numbers were up since the midnight movie shootings, and they haven't stopped climbing.
Marshall and other Colorado gun store operators have seen a particular increase in purchases of assault weapons. "We don't expect that to slow down until after the election," he said.
"We're a cowboy state and police tend to be a reactive force, not usually there when the crime occurs. People want protection," Marshall said. "Barack Obama is the biggest gun salesman we have," he added.
While President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have been reluctant to address or support gun control, both have supported bans on assault weapons in the past, and avoided this week discussing a control measure introduced by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.
The Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act would let only licensed dealers sell ammunition, require police to be notified after any sale of more than 1,000 rounds to an unlicensed person, and require buyers who are not licensed dealers to show a photo ID.
Both politicians cited the 6,000 rounds of ammunition purchased online by Aurora mass shooting suspect James Homes as the impetus for their bill.
"That bill is just another political knee-jerk reaction," said Richard Taylor, manager of Firing Line, a gun store in Aurora that has seen a 40 percent increase in sales of AR15-style automatic weapons since the Aurora shootings.
"Millions of people purchase ammo online every day and don't use it for nefarious purposes," Taylor said. "The actions of one wacko shouldn't influence an entire industry."
Like the National Rifle Association, Taylor and the pro-gun lobby advocate the sale and use of semi-automatic weapons as collector's pieces or for shooting range sport competition.
However, Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) in Washington, DC, said "those weapons belong to the military and have no business being used by the public."
"It's not about taking away guns, it's about introducing sensible measures such as improved background checks and mental health screening for gun buyers," he said.
In light of the Aurora shootings, the mental health question has been brought to the forefront, as shooting suspect Holmes, charged this week with 12 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder, had apparently sent his psychiatrist a notebook detailing his plans for the murders.
This week it was learned that University of Colorado psychiatrist Dr. Lynn Burton was so alarmed by the 24-year-old neuroscience student that she notified the university's threat assessment committee of his instability more than a month before the shootings.
However, as Holmes suddenly dropped out of school, the committee neither acted nor alerted authorities of their concerns, ABC News reported.
Dr. Burton's office did not return calls to confirm the report.
While background checks and gun sales are up, a survey released this week by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press in Washington says the Aurora shootings did little to change the public's opinion on gun control.
About half of America owns or supports gun use, while half supports gun control. In polls conducted the week after the Tucson Shootings on Jan.13-16, 2011, and the Blacksburg shootings on April 18-22, 2007, Americans did not support gun control measures, the survey said.
Like past polls, the Pew survey confirmed the country was virtually split on gun control with 45 percent prioritizing gun control and 49 percent gun rights.
Horwitz, a Washington lawyer who has spent 20 years on the forefront of gun control at CSVG, questioned the Pew statistics.
"Those statistics are misleading," he said. "Vast majorities of pro gun people support sensible gun control, such as more detailed background checks and metal health checks."
CSVG was the first of the major American gun control groups to link mental health issues with gun ownership.
"We've been advocating waiting periods and denial of gun ownership for unstable people for years," he said. "States where the most strict gun controls are in effect see the lowest incidents of gun-related crime."
However, gun shop owner Marshall disagreed, saying "Holmes changed, and you can't predict or even respond to that type of behavior."
Horwitz remained optimistic that "this terrible tragedy will create the start of a very important dialogue," Horwitz said.