As manager of the gun dealer B & B Pawn and Jewelry in Anniston, Mange has had a busy year so far selling firearms and he’s not alone. According to FBI records, firearm background checks in Alabama are up 38 percent to date this year compared to the same period last year — an indication of increased gun sales. Meanwhile, Calhoun County Sheriff's Office records show an almost 16 percent increase in pistol permit sales in the last two years.
The statistics are in keeping with the experiences of some area gun sellers, who say sales are up considerably this year due to residents' growing concerns about crime and possible new federal firearm regulation.
FBI statistics show there were 329,510 background checks in Alabama between January and August, compared to 237,325 background checks during the same period last year. Alabama had 49,978 background checks in August alone, higher than the 32,191 background checks during August 2012 and the 25,075 checks in August 2011.
The FBI notes, however, that the amount of background checks does not represent exactly the number of guns sold in a particular month.
Calhoun County Sheriff's records indicate that the office sold 14,865 pistol permits between July 2012 and June 2013, compared to 12,164 sold between July 2011 and June 2012.
"We've seen a substantial increase in the number of applicants in the last year," said Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson. "And we still have a lot of people coming to our firearms class."
Mange does not need to be shown statistics to know gun sales are up this year, though. The ringing of his cash register is all the proof he needs.
"Everything has increased ... one of the biggest things has been a lot of handguns being sold for personal protection," Mange said. "Ammunition demand has been the hardest ... it's been some of the craziest stuff I've seen."
Richard Patty, owner of Shotgun Sports Supply Company in Anniston, said his business is up about 25 percent this year compared to last year.
"Anything and everything is selling ... guns and ammo," Patty said.
Patty said customers appear to be buying more guns and ammunition due to concerns about rising crime in the area and the possibility of increased firearm regulations. The national debate about gun control ramped up after Dec. 14, when a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"Our sales tripled after all that," Patty said.
Jacqueline Isaacs, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said Alabama's high gun sales this year are part of national trend. However, she noted some states are beginning to see a leveling off of gun sales.
"The increased sales are directly attributable to the increased calls for gun control at the federal level, like increased background checks," Isaacs said.
Isaacs noted that many states are also seeing increases in open carry permits, indicating people are placing a higher premium on personal safety.
“There still seems to be this feeling of unease among citizens," Amerson said. "It's things like the [Newtown] school shooting and the number of violent crimes reported in the media.”
Fred Atkinson, owner of AAA Pawn Shop in Anniston, said many of his customers seem to be concerned about increased gun regulation. Atkinson said his gun sales have been high for the last two years.
“Everybody is suspicious that this administration's agenda is to eventually restrict gun sales,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson added that many of his customers also just want improved safety.
"People are worried about home invasions ... a lot of men are buying guns for their wives because they are seeing a lot of burglaries in the news," Atkinson said. "People are just getting very nervous."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.