Gun sales soar as fear grows in wake of California shooting

A happy scene hid a sense of fear Credit: ITV News

By Matt Williams: Washington News Editor for ITV News

West Alliss is a fairly unremarkable suburb of Milwaukee. Each year the community lines the streets to celebrate the season with a Christmas parade.

It's a happy scene - but talk to people and there's a sense of uncertainty.

Credit: ITV News

Even though Milwaukee is 2,000 miles away from San Bernardino - the scene of last week's massacre in which 14 people were shot dead by two Islamic State-inspired attackers - there's a feeling now that everywhere's a target.

There's no sense of removal from the events in California despite the distances. America is a country used to mass shootings - there have been over 350 already this year.

There's a sense, however, that the nature of the attack last week was different, a game-changer in terms of how secure people feel.

The feeling of vulnerability in countries around the world which have experienced ISIS-influenced attacks is not uncommon. In the US, however, there's an ability to respond differently.

Fear of further attacks on home soil have led to a huge spike in gun sales here.

Following the Paris attacks, 185,000 background checks were performed by the FBI on Black Friday (November 28) alone - and this figure doesn't include hand guns which are checked at State level.

There are no official figures available for gun sales since San Bernardino but anecdotally from people we spoke to in gun stores and gun shows across Wisconsin, the rate of buying has gone higher since - a trend that's being replicated nationwide.

Oshkosh Gun Fair near Milwaukee. Credit: ITV News
An array of weapons were on sale. Credit: ITV News

We visited the Oshkosh Gun Fair about an hour north of Milwaukee.Every dealer we spoke to said they'd had a bumper weekend.

They say it's not unnatural for gun sales to go up in the wake of mass shootings as fear of gun control leads to panic buying.

This time though, sales are being driven far higher with customers, new and old, arming themselves in the belief that the authorities are powerless to protect them.

There's a vast array of weaponry here. Every sale requires a background check - but they can take as little as a minute to carry out.

  • Jerry Olsen, Silencer Xpress

  • Shane McVey, Scotsman Arms

  • Mary Eisen, Eisen Arms LLC

  • Congressman Glenn Grothman (Republican)

  • Kris Maves, Select Fire Weaponry LLC

At times like this, one would expect the the Chief of Police to be able to offer a voice of reassurance to a concerned community.

Not so for Chief of Milwaukee Police, Ed Flynn. He is pessimistic about his ability to protect civilians given the current climate.

This doesn't fully explain the surge of Donald Trump at the moment, but it does go some way an underlying climate of fear permeating America at the moment, and a general distrust in both the government and law enforcement to keep them safe.

They're looking outside the box for answers, for something different.

It's this fear that Trump and politicians like him vying for the 2016 nomination are trying to exploit - only Trump's extreme rhetoric is resonating far more than the others.

Video report by ITV News correspondent Martin Geissler: