CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Tom Kessel said his South Charleston hunting and fishing store sold a high number of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles on Tuesday.
At the store, the increase in sales of the Bushmaster-style rifle -- the weapon authorities said was used in last week's mass shooting of 20 Connecticut first graders -- came a day after U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., expressed interest in regulating them.
Kessel, owner of Spring Hill Rod & Gun in South Charleston, said a majority of customers that sought the guns Tuesday feared they would no longer be able to purchase them in the future.
"After Manchin made that comment a lot of people felt like they lost the gun supporter they voted for," he said.
Manchin, a longtime supporter of gun rights who famously shot "cap-and-trade" legislation in a 2010 campaign advertisement, said Monday that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., made him want to revaluate gun ownership regulations.
Manchin favors owning some hunting rifles but said he didn't see the need for someone to own an assault rifle capable of firing multiple-round clips.
Authorities said 20-year-old Adam Lanza had multiple 30-round magazines for the rifles he had with him at the school where he killed 26 people, including 20 children, before shooting himself last week.
A lot of people were buying guns as Christmas gifts before Manchin's comment, but that only increased on Tuesday.
Kessel sold at least five AR-15 rifles and pointed to a nearly empty shelf with only a few of the rifles left behind his counter.
A couple weeks back, he ordered more rifles for the store that haven't come in yet, and the store was sold out of ammunition for the AR-15 on Tuesday, he said. The store sells the rifles for about $680 to about $1,800, based on caliber and style.
Several large firearm retailers have differed on whether to sell the rifles in their stores this week.
Officials with Dick's Sporting Goods released a statement Tuesday that the company removed all guns from its store near Newtown "out of respect for the victims and their families." Dick's also suspended sales of modern sporting rifles in all its stores across the country.
Any reference to the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle was scrubbed from the company's website.
However, Dick's, based in Pittsburgh, did not answer questions from the Associated Press about how long the suspension would last or which weapons were being pulled.
On its website Tuesday, Cabela's was still offering Bushmaster AR-15 rifles for between $730 and $1,040 each.
The company's gun sale page, however, notes that the firearm would not be sold at Cabela's stores in Connecticut, out of respect for the victims.
The guns were being sold at Cabela's South Charleston store. General Manager Matt Leary said he couldn't comment on the sales and directed further questions to a national spokesman.
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.