Nearly 10,000 guns were bought in Sonoma County in 2012 from firearms dealers. That's an average of 27 a day, or enough to provide one new handgun, rifle or shotgun for every 49 residents.
The numbers are further evidence of a sustained explosion in gun sales on the North Coast, with Sonoma County leading the way with a 60 percent spike in just two years.
The increase dwarfs the rate of the region's population growth and comes at a time of declining hunting licenses and a long-term drop in crime rates.
Dealers sold 18,794 guns in 2012 in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties. Over the past decade, 4.6 million guns were sold in California, including 125,869 in the four counties.
Some studies show that while Americans now own an estimated 270 million firearms, the percentage of the population who say they own guns has dropped substantially.<NO1><NO>
That has led some experts to say it not a matter of more people buying guns, but gun owners buying even more guns.
"The gun community has been beating the drums: &‘Guns are going to go away; they are not going to be available; you better get them now,'" said William Vizzard, a Sacramento State professor emeritus of criminal justice.
Mass shootings such as the Dec. 14 massacre at a Connecticut elementary school and the resulting debate over gun rights and restrictions have prompted a huge uptick in sales in Sonoma County, gun merchants say.
But the rush simply adds to a gun-sales boom already fueled by factors that include having a Democratic president and fears of weapons shortages, said Vizzard, who worked for 27 years with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Gun sales historically have spiked during Democratic administrations, he said, and that has been especially true during President Barack Obama's tenure.
"Now the surge has been supercharged into a super surge," Vizzard said.
At Schmidt & Titoni Firearms on Piner Road in Santa Rosa, the gun racks and glass cases are unusually bare these days.
Victor Titoni and his business partner are doing their best, but can hardly keep the shelves stocked. "I'm stunned. These racks are usually all filled," said Gary Greenough, 65, of Windsor, who stopped in to see if a Ruger Mini-14 rifle was in stock.
It was not.
"People are afraid, there's obviously something going on," said Ellishea Roberts, 31, of Guerneville.
<NO1><NO>Roberts and her fiance came to buy .22-caliber bullets. But there were none in stock. "There are none in Sonoma County," she said.
Six miles south on Dutton Avenue at Load-X Ammunition, an ammunition manufacturer, orders are at "lunatic levels," said Steve Paulick, the company president.
"My backlog on Christmas Eve was two pages long; right now it's 10 pages long," he said.
"The demand, it's nationwide," Paulick said.
The rapidly escalating sales of guns comes during a two-decade slide in crime rates. But nothing spurs gun sales like mass shootings, say firearms merchants.
Since 2010, there have been at least 11massacres in the United States that fall under the FBI's definition of a mass murder: the killing of four or more people during the same incident.
In the past two years, some of the best-selling types of firearms were used in the shootings that resulted in the most casualties.
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