HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvanians are lining up to buy firearms in the aftermath of the Connecticut elementary school massacre, but dealers say gun owners were already anxious over the potential for a gun-control crackdown.
Joe Staudt of Staudt's Gun Shop in Harrisburg was sold out of his usually large stock of AK-47 and AR-15 semi-automatic weapons by Wednesday. Adam Lanza is believed to have used an AR-15 in the Connecticut killings of 20 Sandy Hook school children and six staff members last week.
The store Staudt opened in the spring of 2011 had record sales Monday, but Tuesday "is now our new record day," he said.
Echoing other dealers, he said the surge in firearms purchases following the Connecticut tragedy reflect a desire for personal protection and a reaction to renewed calls for gun-control measures. Gun owners were reminded that they are "vulnerable," he said. Congressional Democrats were "waiting for a story like this," he added.
Staudt said a common element in mass shootings is mental health problems among the shooters.
"If we're going to have any conversations about this, we're going to have to include that," he said. "The firearms themselves don't do anything without an individual operating them."
Bennett's Gun Shop in Phoenixville, not far from Philadelphia, specializes in more conventional hunting rifles. But shop owner John Bennett said semi-automatics are "fun to shoot" and gun enthusiasts are concerned about the possible reinstatement of an assault weapons ban.
"They want to buy them now that they are still available," he said.
At Grice Gun Shop in Clearfield, which bills itself as Pennsylvania's largest gun shop, the phone was busy much of the day. A recording asked callers to be patient and said the store was swamped because of the holiday season and "the recent gun-ban rhetoric."
Pennsylvania residents do not need a permit to buy or own guns. But a permit and background check are required for handgun owners who want to conceal the weapon or carry it in a vehicle. The conceal-carry permits are issued by county sheriffs and are not routinely tracked by state police.
Sheriffs around the state reported a surge in applications for handgun permits.
In Greene County in western Pennsylvania, officials processed 40 applications by mid-afternoon Wednesday, compared with a record of 110 in one month.
"Our door hasn't closed yet today," said Sheriff Richard Ketchem, adding that many people were picking up applications for others as they dropped off their own.