FLORIDA KEYS -- Guns were rushing off the shelves the week before Christmas, but more notably it was the week after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
On the morning of Dec. 14, a 20-year-old man broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and shot 20 young students and six adults with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle before shooting himself.
Just 60 miles north of Manhattan, the town was instantly inundated with national and international media covering every angle of the crisis. Hours after the shooting, a debate on gun control ensued.
Across the nation, politicians and pundits decried the nation's easy access to military-style semi-automatic weapons and pressured lawmakers to take action. This alone has led to a high increase in gun sales across the nation, including right here in the Florida Keys.
"We're 10 times busier than we normally are," said Thomas Kiffney, owner of Kiffney's Firearms Indoor Range at mile marker 106, bayside.
Kiffney, who is also a sergeant with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said last Friday he had sold 50 to 60 semi-automatic rifles in a week as a result of gun ban rumors. Normally, he sells two or three assault-style rifles a month. He said he always expects sales to pick up before Christmas, but not as much as he's seen since Dec. 14.
Last week, Kiffney's website was promoting $875.95 DPMS AR-15 rifles. AR-15s are a modified civilian version of the military's M-16. The assailant in the Newtown shooting used a Bushmaster brand .223 AR-15.
In Homestead, Javier Alonso, manager of American Armory, said he has had to order more assault-style rifles following the Newtown massacre.
"Any time there are talks about gun control, we get busy," Alonso said.
At Newman's Outfitters in Big Pine Key, a person answering the phone said his gun sales were up 25 percent.
"That's all I've got to say," he said before hanging up and declining to elaborate.
Newspaper reports on the mainland say other South Florida gun shops are seeing a similar uptick in sales.
As to some gun stores including Dick's Sporting Goods pulling their semi-automatic rifles from their shelves in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Kiffney dismissed that as a business tactic larger merchants use to force prices up before again offering them for sale.
"I won't do that," he said. "If I have it, then I'll sell it."
At Kiffney's store, a sign stated that wholesalers have been working around the clock in the last week to meet the demands of gun buyers.
Meanwhile in Key West, the police chief asked the city commission to pass a resolution urging Congress to ban assault-style rifles.
Silent until one week after the Connecticut shooting, the National Rifle Association defended guns in a news conference last week.
Ignoring two hecklers at the news conference, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's CEO and executive vice president, blamed the shooting on politicians who promote gun-free school zones, the media who cover shootings and the entertainment industry's portrayal of gun violence. To solve the problem, he said each school in America's needs armed security.
"There's only one thing that stops a bad guy with a gun and that's a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said
President Obama visited Newtown after the shooting and has vowed to take action on gun violence. He has tapped Vice President Biden to lead a task force to recommend immediate action. The president said he plans on speaking about the gun solution during his State of the Union address next month.