FORT WORTH - On a recent shopping trip at a Fort Worth gun store, Bryan Tomlin didn’t need a lot of convincing to start packing heat.
"We had our house broken into recently," he said. "It was a little bit of a wake-up call."
He said thieves burst into his Fort Worth home while he and his wife were gone, just after Thanksgiving. Almost immediately after the break-in, he bought his first handgun.
"After something like that happens, it makes you start thinking this stuff can happen," said Tomlin, a manager at a health care company.
Gun sales have been setting records recently, according to the latest FBI figures on background checks required to buy firearms. The FBI reports that in December, gun dealers made a record number of inquiries - 1.5 million - into the database. Only about 1 percent of buyers are rejected.
Texas was behind only Kentucky in the number of background checks submitted last year.
Sellers like Dewayne Irwin, president of Cheaper than Dirt! Outdoor Adventures in Fort Worth, reported a banner year in sales.
Irwin says sales last month were up nearly eight percent compared to his previous best month - December 2008, after President Obama was elected.
"Even back during the Obama scare in 2008, when we sold a ton of stuff," Irwin said, referring to gun advocates' concerns that President Obama would overhaul gun legislation, "it’s nothing like this."
Last month, he sold 1,851 firearms, a record for his store. Nearly all of his sales, he said, were assault rifles or handguns. Hunting rifles or shotguns account for only about 15 percent of his business.
"[Sales] have been good every year, but this year for some reason, it’s just gone off the charts," Irwin said.
Reasons for the boom vary.
Retailers say concerns of possible new gun legislation and crime fears could be driving sales.
Ernie Conn was shopping for a compact gun he could carry with him, something he’s never done before. However, Conn is part of a motorcycle club and decided he needed protection while on the road.
"It’s not that I’m going to go out and hunt somebody down," he said. “Just in case, you never know... I might need to shoot a snake on the road."
Since exact gun sales aren’t recorded or reported, it’s possible many buyers are purchasing multiple guns or are simply repeat customers, like Josh Morris. The Keller man spent $1,800 for a semi-automatic rifle to add to his collection. He says he intends to use it to hunt hogs.
"I don’t know if I needed a new one," he said. "I’ve been looking around for awhile and decided to get one."
The record sales trouble gun safety advocates, who point out nationally violent crime is down. Studies show guns in homes increase the likelihood of homicide or suicides.
Even as Tomlin browsed the gun displays, he admits it’s a purchase he doesn’t completely want to make.
"I wish I didn’t have to get a gun," he said. "In reality, we have guns and the criminals can get them, and so I think the good people should have them too."