Saturday, October 5, 2013
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas is leading the nation in the number of people seeking federal permission to buy guns.
Federal statistics reviewed Friday by the Houston Chronicle show 1.2 million people in Texas through the end of September filled out applications for background checks.
At that rate, last year's record 1.4 million requests will be surpassed by the end of 2013.
"The gun business is doing well," Rob Elder, head of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said.
He said number of requests could increase his agency's workload, but he said most purchasers are law-abiding citizens seeking firearms for legitimate purposes.
The figures don't equate to the number of purchases but represent people who have asked to buy from a federally licensed dealer.
Would-be purchasers must apply to a computerized database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Criminal convictions, dishonorable military discharges, being in the country without an immigration permit or renouncing their U.S. citizenship can get a buyer rejected.
The application numbers, however, don't include transactions between private citizens. Those don't require background checks.
Gun dealers say the government shutdown hasn't seemed to have slowed the computerized process, which normally takes just a few minutes.
Figures show California and Illinois are next after Texas in the number of applications and also are headed for annual records.
Alice Tripp, spokeswoman for the Texas State Rifle Association, said people may be hoarding guns out of fear of weapons and ammunition shortages.
"People are buying what they can buy, where they can find it, like they always do when they have concerns about availability of any item," she said. "I am 67 and have lived through gasoline shortages, toilet-paper shortages, home shortages," Tripp said. "Everything levels out."
One Houston gun store owner, Jim Pruett, told the newspaper President Barack Obama motivates gun buyers.
"Any time he talks about gun control, it drives people crazy and they go and buy guns," he said.