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.