As Calif. gun sales go up, number of gun-casualties goes down

Despite the rise in gun sales in California, there has not been a corresponding rise in gun deaths or gun injuries.
CBS News

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - Gun sales in California are booming. More than 600,000 were sold in 2011. However by last year, sales had jumped to 817,000. That's an increase of 36 percent. But we noticed the number of people wounded by gunfire is dropping.

Business has been hectic for Aristotle Rogel, who works at a gun store in Burbank, California. Walk-in business is up 20 percent this month. Many customers are buying more than one gun.

Asked if his customers are buying now because they are afraid they won't be able to buy later if there are new gun laws, Rogel answered: "Well, absolutely. Stock up and see hopefully nothing happens."

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California gun sales have steadily risen from 350,000 in 2002, to last year's record. Recently, some gun owners became worried that President Obama's reelection and the Newtown shooting will lead to more gun control. Military style weapons have become popular for target practice and self-defense.

Yet despite the rise in gun sales in California, there has not been a corresponding rise in gun deaths or gun injuries. Hospitalizations for gun injuries have actually dropped nearly 28 percent and gun deaths by 15 percent.

"When I see that the sales go up, I don't like that," said Charlie Beck, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. "My officers have to face these guns on the street."

Beck credits a five-year police crackdown on gangs for the drop in shooting deaths. Gang crimes account for half the homicides in Los Angeles.

Also, gun buyback programs have taken nearly 10,000 guns off of Los Angeles' streets since 2009.

"What I worry about are guns that fall into the wrong hands," said Beck, "guns that are excess and become unwanted in a home. Those are the kind of guns that my officers run into on the street that are used in murders in Los Angeles far too commonly."

But the police can't keep up. About 2,000 guns they bought back last week is roughly the same number sold in California gun shops in one day.

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    Ben Tracy is a CBS News senior national and environmental correspondent based in Washington, D.C.