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First-time gun buyers in St. Louis and more cause surge in gun sales nationwide

"I did it for safety reasons. I think the surge in gun sales shows people are afraid," said St. Louis County mom Jaymi Smotherson

ST. LOUIS — "I had been thinking about it and yes I was nervous," said Jaymi Smotherson.

Despite her jitters, in April, Smotherson decided to do two things she'd never done before.

The St. Louis County mom, who has 7- and 13-year-old sons, completed a firearms training class and she bought a nine-millimeter handgun.

"I did it for safety reasons to protect my home and my children after my husband passed away last year. It just seems like the crime in St. Louis is getting out of control," Smotherson told 5 On Your Side's Robert Townsend.

The 38-year-old, single mom has plenty of pistol-packing company.

A new survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation reveals retailers reported a record 10.3 million firearms sales during the first six months of this year  

Overall, gun sales increased by 95 percent compared to last year.  Ammunition sales rose 139 percent.

Researchers also say many first-time gun buyers, women and more African Americans are shelling out big bucks for firearms and firearm training.

"All of our classes sell out at least a month and a half in advance," says Armon Reed-Wynne, the owner of Prime Protection STL.

For the last six years, Reed-Wynne and his wife have offered gun-firing classes at Range West St. Louis in Ballwin.

The couple says gun-carrying grandmas are also enrolling in their firearm training courses.

"We're especially seeing many African American women of all ages. More parents are also putting their kids in our private classes for children.  I think it's the uncertainty in the world. People don't know what the next day will bring, so they want to protect themselves, that's all they want to do. They want to do it legally and properly, " said Armon Reed-Wynne.

"I agree. There are a number of reasons. Our sales have doubled what they were last year. Lots of first-time buyers. Lots of seasoned gun owners are also buying the latest holsters and accessories. I like the business, but I don't necessarily like the reasons," said Mark Campbell, the owner of Mid-America Arms in south St. Louis County.

Campbell thinks the coronavirus pandemic, recent protests, the city's ever-rising homicide rate all impacted the surge in gun sales.

"I wish it would be just normal business, but a lot of it I think is because of the pandemic, the unrest and calling for defunding the police. People are scared. They think they're gonna be cut out or something and they're gonna need to protect themselves," said Campbell.

"I think it's great that people are doing the right thing responsibly, getting the education and understanding regarding gun safety. Yes, I do think the gun sales will keep going up," said Jaymi Smotherson.

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