FARMINGTON — The fierce gun control debate since the Newtown, Conn. massacre has led many gun enthusiasts to stock up.
Area gun stores are reporting sharply increased sales since the shooting. Most popular are the military-style rifles similar to the AR-15 variant used in Connecticut.
Ken Banks, owner of Shooter's World in Cortez, Colo., said his store had seen a "phenomenal increase" in sales, about triple what is normal for this time of year.
"Everything on the shelf is selling," he said. "Ammo, military-type ammo, especially all your AR-15s and military items those are your hottest items."
The surge in sales has resulted in a backlog of background checks.
The wait for Colorado background checks has risen from an hour and a half to 50 hours, he said.
At Hi-Power Sports in Bloomfield, sales are also up. "We've sold all the AR-15 type rifles and AK-47 type rifles," said owner Steve King.
The shop opened in September, and King attributed some of the increase to holiday buyers.
"It's been extremely busy here lately," he said. "It's the Christmas season."
No one at East Main Trade Center in Farmington was available for an interview Friday because they were too busy helping customers.
A long line had formed, an employee said.
The national debate on gun violence burst into the open last week as everyone from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre weighed in.
On Friday, LaPierre called for armed security in all schools.
Earlier in the week, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force that could result in new gun restrictions.
Gun enthusiasts are reacting to the possibility of new federal restrictions.
"There's rumor of this legislation coming down from Washington," King said.
Politically conservative Farmington has long held a strong attachment to guns. In addition to the area's sporting goods stores, Aztec and Farmington commonly host gun shows.
Those largely unrestricted venues for gun sales are under scrutiny from policymakers.
Even New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is a gun enthusiast. The former prosecutor holds a concealed weapons permit.
Local gun owners said mass shootings, while tragic, shouldn't lead to curtailing their right to bear arms.
"This area, I don't see the attitudes changing," said Tony Atkinson, a San Juan County commissioner and gun collector. "My attitude hasn't changed."
Atkinson expressed sympathy for the tragedy in Connecticut, and said the nation needs a discussion on keeping guns away from dangerous people.
"We do need to have a discussion, especially when it comes to people with mental conditions or people who shouldn't have guns," he said.
But, he added, fundamental gun rights haven't changed, even for military-style assault weapons.
"The Second Amendment doesn't say anything about hunting," he said. "There's nothing in the Constitution about hunting. It's about self-protection."