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Nervous citizens stock up on guns, survival gear

By Charlie Gillis National Post


With television networks billboarding "America's New War," people across the country are stockpiling weapons, food and survival gear in anticipation of further hostilities.

From New York to Colorado, sales of such items as bottled water, outdoor clothing and firearms have spiked in the days following attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"Oh, business has definitely picked up -- I'd say 80 or 90 per cent," said Frank Hamilton from the Long Island Shooting Center in Islip, N.Y., where customers can purchase guns and shoot them on an indoor range. "They were looking for everything, all types of firearms, anything they could buy."

With the discharge of guns audible in the background, Mr. Hamilton said customers seemed more resolved than scared or angry. "I guess they're just tired of being abused, and they want to protect their families."

A Phoenix-based Web site that evaluates survival equipment and links users to dealers across the United States reported a two-fold increase in unique visits, from an average of 2,000 per day to about 4,500 over the past three days.

Doug Ritter, the site's editor, has received 10 times the normal volume of e-mail inquiries from nervous respondents since the attacks.

"We're almost back to a Y2K scenario, and I'm spending most of my time in front of my computer answering these messages," Mr. Ritter said yesterday. "People just want to know what to do in the event of a service interruption. They're asking me how to survive for, say, a few days or a week."

As early as Tuesday, Wal-Mart was reporting increased demand for food and bottled water, while Kmart removed guns and ammunition from its 2,100 stores across the United States. Smaller firearms retailers were happy to step into the void, though.

"We've seen increased sales in ammo," said Nathan Skinner, a salesman at Grizzly Outdoors in Woodland Park, Colo. "People out here in Colorado tend to deal with problems on their own, and that means protecting themselves."

Mr. Ritter said the response is not entirely irrational. A short-term disruption of supplies and services could occur, he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that there's going to be further attempts to attack us, and some of those attempts are going to be successful," he said.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 16, 2001

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