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Andrew Byers, a law enforcement specialist at Calibers Shooter Sports Center, shows a rifle to customers. Photo Credit - Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal
Andrew Byers, a law enforcement specialist at Calibers Shooter Sports Center, shows a rifle to customers. Photo Credit - Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal
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No one knows exactly why, but a lot of people are interested in packing heat.

In fact, FBI data suggest that gun sales in New Mexico and nationally will hit record levels in 2011.

Will Hogsett, sales director at Calibers Shooter Sports Center said strong sales at his store may be due to an improving economy or lingering fears about stronger gun control before the 2012 elections.

“I’m happy either way,” Hogsett said this week as customers crowded Calibers sales room and waited up to an hour for a lane in the shooting range. “It’s been like this for about three weeks now.”

Sales of handguns and shotguns continue to be the big sellers among people looking for protection in their homes, he said. “The big thing people come to us for is home defense.”

The FBI reports that the number of background checks required to buy a firearm hit a national one-month record of more than 1.5 million in November and remained strong this month, CNN has reported.

In New Mexico, the number of FBI National Instant Criminal Background checks totalled 10,011 in November, up 14 percent from about 8,800 in November 2010.

That number falls short of the state’s 12,078 background checks performed in November 2008. State data for December was not available.

Short-term economic and political factors aside, for years, gun ownership has grown in popularity, particularly among women, said Valerie Jackson, co-owner of Charlie’s Sporting Goods.

“There are just more people shooting,” Jackson said.

“When I first started in the industry 40 years ago, there were very few women customers.”

A Gallup poll released in October found that 34 percent of U.S. adults and 23 percent of women surveyed reported personal gun ownership.

The number of background checks performed by the FBI nationally has increased each year for nearly a decade from 8.5 million in 2002 to 14.6 million in the first 11 months this year.

For New Mexico, the number of FBI background checks climbed from 80,000 in 2002 to 102,000 through November this year. In 2010, a record 109,000 background checks were performed for New Mexico.

Alicia Eiler of Albuquerque visited Calibers this week to get in some target practice with a new Christmas gift from her father — a Heckler and Koch 9mm pistol.

“My dad had a little spare cash this year,” Eiler said.

Eiler has owned other firearms before but now plans to try some competitive shooting with her new pistol, she said.

She also owns firearms for personal protection. “I feel safer in my home,” she said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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