Americans stock up on weapons after California shooting

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Gun Sales Spike After San Bernadino Shooting

(Reuters) -- At a gun range in Atlanta on Sunday, four days after the deadliest Islamic State-inspired attack on American soil, Brandon Langley practiced firing his AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle.

"If people were armed, it would have changed the outcome totally," Langley said of Wednesday's assault by a heavily armed husband and wife that killed 14 people and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California. "Instead of 14 victims, there would have been zero, except for those two (attackers)."

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Many Americans agree and are stocking up on weapons after the country's worst mass shooting in three years. Gun retailers are reporting surging sales, with customers saying they want to keep handguns and rifles at hand for self-defense in the event of another attack.

"Everyone is reporting up, every store, every salesman, every distributor," said Ray Peters, manager of Range, Guns & Safes, a company that sells firearms and safes in Atlanta with an indoor firing range. "People are more aware of the need to protect themselves."

Peters usually carries a pistol with him. But since last week's shooting, he says he's added a Ruger semiautomatic rifle.

In a country where more people own more guns than anywhere else in the world, the shooting has reignited a long-running national debate over Americans' constitutional right to bear arms and whether gun ownership should be curbed or expanded as a way to stop even more bloodshed.

A recent spate of mass shootings, capped by Wednesday's massacre in San Bernardino, has pushed those issues to the fore in the presidential campaign.

RELATED GALLERY: See photos of residents in mourning in wake of the San Bernardino shooting

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San Bernardino Shooting, People on Scene, Mourning
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Americans stock up on weapons after California shooting
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: A local outreach group prays with residents near the scene of an investigation where two suspects were gunned down during a shootout with police, December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. A day earlier, the two suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Redondo Police Officer Dan Richey carries a bouquet of flowers to deliver to a female shooting victim that grew up in Redondo Beach at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.A day earlier, the two suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people and injured over 20 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 03: A mourner cries as she brings flowers to a road block outside of the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate a mass shooting at the Center that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A woman identified as the fiancée of shooting victim (C-purple) is comforted by friends and Chaplain Steve Ballinger (L) as she leaves flowers on December 3, 2015, near the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center where 14 people were killed on December 2 in San Bernardino, California. Ballinger said the woman's fiancé died in the attack. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Patrick T. Fallon (Photo credit should read PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Larry Jones, pastor of Cross over Outreach Church, Dr. Jeannetta Million, pastor of Victoria's Believers Church, and Arnold Morales, pastor of King of Glory Church bow their heads in prayers for the victims and those involved in the mass shootings at the Inland Regional Center, during a prayer vigil at Orange Show Road and Waterman Avenue December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Investigators are looking for a motive as to why Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik went on a shooting rampage that left 14 dead and at least 17 others wounded. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: Local resident Katrina Venegas is close to tears as she has been kept away from her home which is directly in front of shooting scene where 2 suspects were gunned down driving a black SUV during a shootout with police on San Bernardino Avenue the day after the suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. She said her dog has been locked in the house alone since yesterday. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 3: San Bernardino resident Lisa Gonzalez hugs Pastor Ernie Ceballos after he was helpful in getting the police to escort her back to her home on the same street where sheriff deputies investigate the scene where 2 suspects were gunned down during a shootout with police on San Bernardino Avenue the day after the suspects allegedly shot and killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Gonzalez had left home briefly yesterday to go buy milk for her twin 3-year-olds. The shooting took place in front of her house while she was gone. She and her son, Santana Gonzalez,left, were not allowed back to their home so they spent the night in a hotel. Her husband was home with the children and wasn't allowed to leave the home. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
People wait at a community center for a family member who was near a shooting that killed multiple people at a social services center, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jesus Gonzales, center left, who has been separated with his wife since Wednesday's shooting, is comforted by local church members including Jose Gomez, center right, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Gonzales has been unable to get to his home due to a police shootout with suspects which took place in his neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A group of local church members pray for residents who live in the neighborhood where Wednesday's police shootout with suspects took place, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Multiple attackers opened fire on a banquet at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino on Wednesday, killing multiple people and sending police on a manhunt for suspects.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINA, CA - DECEMBER 2: Olivia Navarro waits to see her daughter after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A woman, center, who survived a shooting rampage, talks to members of the media outside a community center after she reunited with her parents Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. Multiple attackers opened fire on a banquet at a social services center for the disabled in San Bernardino on Wednesday, killing multiple people and sending police on a manhunt for suspects. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 03: A group of men embrace in prayer outside the crime scene where the suspects in the shooting at the Inland Resource Center were killed on December 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 02: Mayor of San Bernadino, California R. Carey Davis pauses during a press conference at City Hall regarding the shooting that took place inside the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Police continue to investigate the shooting that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
A woman who declined to give her name kisses her sister, center, a survivor of a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others as they reunite at a community center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A man hugs a person who was near a shooting rampage at a social services center that killed multiple people and wounded others, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, at a community center where family members gathered to pick up the survivors in San Bernardino, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 02: Mayor of San Bernadino, California R. Carey Davis speaks during a press conference at City Hall regarding the shooting that took place inside the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California.Police continue to investigate the shooting that left at least 14 people dead and another 17 injured. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Omar Riopedre embraces his wife Diana, who was in the Inland Regional Center when the mass shootings took place, as they leave the Rudy C. Hernandez Community Center in the San Bernardino on December 2, 2015. A man and a woman suspected of carrying out a deadly shooting at a center for the disabled in California were killed in a shootout with police, while a third person was detained, police said. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
David Bowditch, assistant director in charge of the FBI LA field office, talks to the media near the the site of a mass shooting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a Southern California social services center, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said. Authorities said the shooting rampage killed multiple people and wounded others. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, right, talks to the media near the the site of a mass shooting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. One or more gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a Southern California social services center, shooting several people as others locked themselves in their offices, desperately waiting to be rescued by police, witnesses and authorities said. Authorities said the shooting rampage killed multiple people and wounded others. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
People who were near a deadly shooting at a social services center that killed multiple people arrive at at a community center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINA, CA - DECEMBER 2: Luis Gutierrez gets emotional as he talks about his wife after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Marie Cabrera, Sonya Gonzalez and Christine Duran, all of San Bernardino, pray after a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at-large. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
People evacuated from the Inland Regional Center walk from busses into The Rock Church and World Outreach Center during the aftermath of a mass shooting at the facility on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunmen opened fire inside a center for the disabled in killing at least 14 people and wounding the same number before fleeing the scene, officials said. AFP PHOTO / PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP / Patrick T. Fallon (Photo credit should read PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wipes her tears at a community center where family members are gathering to pick up survivors after a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Teresa Hernandez, facing camera, is comforted by a woman as she arrives at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., where one or more gunmen opened fire, shooting multiple people on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to 3 suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Two women embrace at a community center where family members are gathering to pick up survivors after a shooting rampage that killed multiple people and wounded others at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2: Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Police escort civilians away from the 1300 block of S. Waterman Street near the site of a shooting took place on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting on December 2, 2015 in San Bernardino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Survivors are evacuated from the scene of a shooting under police and sheriff's escort on December 2, 2015 in San Bernadino, California. One or more gunman opened fire inside a building in San Bernardino in California, with reports of 20 victims at a center that provides services for the disabled. Police were still hunting for the shooter, saying one to three possible suspects were involved. Heavily armed SWAT teams, firefighters and ambulances swarmed the scene, located about an hour east of Los Angeles, as police warned residents away. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - DECEMBER 2, 2015: Evacuated workers pray in a circle on the San Bernardino Golf Course across the street where a mass shooting occurred at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2105 in San Bernardino, California. Multiple fatalities and injuries were reported as police search for up to three suspects who are still at large. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Two women comfort each other near the scene of a shooting outside a Southern California social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., where one or more gunmen opened fire, shooting multiple people on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (KNBC via AP)
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Wednesday's shooting follows an attack that killed three on Nov. 27 at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and an Oct. 1 rampage by a gunman who killed 10 at an Oregon college, prompted Hillary Clinton, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, to renew her call to "stop gun violence now" with new firearm purchase restrictions.

Conversely, those who top the polls for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, insist the answer to gun violence is to empower citizens to thwart such attacks by making it easier, not harder, to buy and carry weapon.

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That viewed was echoed in the showroom of Turner's Outdoorsman, a San Bernardino firearms dealer just a few blocks from where Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, gunned down their victims at a center for people with disabilities.

At Turner's, business has been brisk since the shooting with about 40 shoppers gathering on Sunday morning, far busier than usual, clerks said.

Shivneel Singh, 27, said the shooting prompted him to buy a gun on Saturday. He already owned three handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. But he said he felt he needed another gun after the San Bernardino assault.

"I want to have it in the car, so it's always ready," said Singh, as he shopped at Ammo Brothers in Riverside, about 15 miles (24 km) from San Bernardino. He said he had several friends and neighbors planning to buy their first guns.

"I just want to feel safe."

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"FREE SOCIETY"

Gun sales have spiked after previous mass shootings, as reflected in Federal Bureau of Investigation data on background checks for people seeking to purchase guns.

The week the agency performed the most background checks since 1998 came immediately after the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 27 people. Potential gun buyers that week numbered 953,600.

Gun sales were already on the rise this year. On Black Friday, the popular shopping day on Nov. 27 after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday, a total of 185,345 applicants were processed through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a 5.5 percent increase from the year before.

The Pew Research Center found last December that 57 percent of Americans say they believe owning a gun helps protect people from crime, up from 48 percent in 2012. The rest said owning a gun would put personal safety at risk.

Critics of America's gun laws point to an array of statistics highlighting the risks of widespread gun ownership.

This includes data compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group in Washington, that shows, on average, 89 people die each day from gun violence in the United States and 32,514 people are killed on average each year.

President Barack Obama has called for tighter gun purchase controls after the San Bernardino shooting, but gun advocates say new regulations would not stop people determined to commit mass murder.

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Langley, at Stoddard's Range and Guns in Atlanta, said guns are needed in "a free society" - a view also expressed by Jasneil Singh, 19, as he shopped at Ammo Brothers in Riverside, California.

"It's not the guns who do damage, it's the people," he said.

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