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Fears over Y2K are cited for increase in gun sales

SHARE Fears over Y2K are cited for increase in gun sales

DETROIT (AP) -- Gun sales across the country have jumped since November and firearms dealers say they are surprised by some of the buyers.

"We're seeing people who I wouldn't call 'gun' people," said Brian Peot, 26, who sells guns at Rylee's Ace Hardware in Grand Rapids. "We're getting people who have never owned guns."He said some customers have asked specifically for a "Y2K gun."

FBI officials ending their first full year of monitoring federal background checks say more time is needed before national sales patterns can be tracked accurately.

But some gun sales associates and law enforcement officials here say they think Y2K fears are driving the 16.7 percent increase found in federal records checks this month. The checks are performed on everyone legally buying a firearm.

Wayne County Sheriff Robert Ficano said people "shouldn't be falsely alarmed" by security concerns in the coming days.

But "obviously in the past year, there's been a consciousness in the public domain (about Y2K) that has continued," he said.

A normal month in Wayne County sees sheriff's officials handle about 30 background checks for Detroit and the area's townships. Last month, he said, they handled between 65 and 70.

Nationwide, the FBI had conducted 1.04 million background checks as of Dec. 27, up from the December 1998 total of 871,644. The federal monitoring system began on Nov. 30, 1998.

Background checks aren't a strict accounting of actual gun sales, because a person can buy more than one firearm once he or she is cleared.