By DAWN KENT
HOOVER, Ala. — It was a busy weekend at Hoover Tactical Firearms following Friday's school shooting in Connecticut and two other high-profile shootings in Central Alabama on Saturday.
People who visited the gun store and firing range on U.S. 31 in Hoover were driven by concerns for their safety, as well as possible future limits on purchasing firearms, said Gene Smith, an investor in the store and a Hoover City Councilman.
Some were just looking; others made purchases. A number of shoppers said they had been thinking about buying a gun for awhile, and the recent shootings prompted them to take action.
"They were concerned the government is going to take away their ability to protect themselves," he said.
Smith said he believes such concerns are little premature, noting the major legal hurdles required to alter the Second Amendment.
But the mass shooting that claimed 26 lives in Newtown, Conn., on Friday -- including 20 children -- has fueled calls for more stringent regulations on gun purchases.
On Saturday, an early-morning shooting at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham left a gunman dead and three people, including a Birmingham police officer, injured.
In another incident in Oxford the same day, police shot and killed a gunman after a pursuit that began with a triple slaying in Cleburne County.
Smith said shoppers were also concerned about where they work and where they live.
Hoover Tactical Firearms employees try get people to think through their purchases, he added.
"We try to slow down the conversation and make sure what they want is what they really need," he said.
For instance, a woman whose boyfriend or husband is encouraging her to get a large gun likely needs something smaller, he said.
In another case, Smith said he talked to several hospital workers who were browsing at the store over the weekend. For them and other people who work in an environment where firearms are not allowed, Hoover Tactical Firearms employees talk about pepper spray or a civilian version of a Taser as potential options.
"And then that's between them and their employer over whether it would be OK," Smith said.
It's not unusual for the store to see a spike in business after a high-profile shooting, he said. It also happened in July following the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting.
Store traffic also reflects political events.
The store's business tripled the day after the presidential election and it has remained high ever since, Smith said.
"In talking to our wholesalers today, they say their inventory is getting thin," he said. "They're replenishing it as fast as they can, but the demand is greater than the supply."