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U.S. attacks spur sale of guns, ammo and gas masks

Guns, gas masks and knife-proof vests are flying off the shelves of military supply shops...

Guns, gas masks and knife-proof vests are flying off the shelves of military supply shops and sporting goods stores after the attacks on New York and Washington sent a shiver of fear through Americans.

The ease with which hijackers last week evaded security to slam jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and warnings from the U.S. government that Americans must prepare for a long war against terrorism have spurred sales.

Military supply stores said they can barely keep pace with skyrocketing demand for gas masks and knife-proof vests in the aftermath of the devastating attacks.

``We can't even keep up with the gas mask sales. We just have to hope our suppliers can keep up,'' said Mike Wismer, inventory manager for Forest City Surplus Limited, in London, Ontario, which specializes in surplus military gear. Wismer said the company was selling, mostly over the Internet, at least 100 gas masks per day at C$16.95 (about $10.80) each. Most of the customers are Americans.

Shares of gun distributor Sturm, Ruger & Co. soared 10.75 percent to close at $10.30 on the New York Stock Exchange. The Southport, Connecticut-based company said it didn't know what accounted for the rise in its stock price, though for some Americans the reason was clear.

Kenneth Frank, a lawyer and computer software business owner in Baltimore, said he is shopping for gas masks for himself, his children and friends as a result of the attacks that have left about 5,000 people missing in New York.

``The time to get a gas mask is in advance of something happening. A biological or chemical attack is certainly possible, and when it occurs you won't be able to get a gas mask,'' he said.

Frank said he has been searching on the Internet for gas masks, and is considering some Israeli-made models that sell for under $25, he said.


Tony Tanner, president of Kejo Limited Co., based in Clearwater, Florida, said he has been ``inundated with calls'' for high-end gas masks as well as knife- and bullet-proof vests. ``Some of these calls have come from aircraft pilots themselves,'' Tanner said.

Tanner said before last Tuesday, Kejo had sold just five gas masks this year. But in the wake of the unprecedented attacks on the United States, he said the company has sold dozens per day at $130 a piece. Extra filters go for $22.50 each, and the vests sell for $500.

``This is very sad. It's a tragedy. But if we can help people by providing them with these goods, I would feel good about that,'' Tanner said, adding: ``It's a business. We are providing a service that everybody may need.''

In downtown Detroit, General Laney, owner of Laney Gun Supply, said he was certain last week's attacks had fueled the pickup he's seen in sales of both guns and ammo.

``There has been some alarm, and there's people buying guns and ammunition,'' Laney told Reuters.

``They're buying defensive ammunition,'' he added, saying sales of buckshot were especially strong. ``Everything I've got is pretty much spoken for,'' said Laney.

``When people are buying double-ought buck that's for hunting two-legged deer,'' Laney said, dismissing the upcoming hunting season as a factor behind surging sales.

``You want to protect your house,'' he said.

``A crisis like that causes sales to go up,'' said Laney, who has been in business 20 years. ``It's a little bit more serious, we're expecting different things,'' he said, when asked how the situation now compared to the run-up to the Gulf War.


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. , the world's largest retailer, saw an increase in gun and ammunition sales in the first two days after the attacks, but they have since leveled off, a spokeswoman said.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a leading association of the U.S. firearms and recreational shooting sports industry, said it has not noticed a sharp rise in sales.

``From what I've heard in my discussions with retailers, most are not seeing unusual sales activity, especially from first-time gun buyers,'' said Doug Painter, executive of Newton, Connecticut-based NSSF.

Larry Whitely, a spokesman for Springfield, Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, said sales of guns and ammunition had increased after the attacks.

With the advent of the fall hunting season, he said it was too soon to say whether the pickup in sales was due to concerns about terror attacks in the United States, however.

``We didn't poll the people to find out why they were buying the guns,'' Whitely said. Bass Pro operates 13 sporting good stores across the country.