(WTNH) -- (WTNH) -- We hear a lot about businesses struggling in this economy, but there is one business that is thriving here in Connecticut and around the country: the gun business.
Gun sales in the state are up dramatically.
Expectant mother Sarah Beland of Bristol could be heard firing her very first shots, with her very first gun. She says she'll carry it to feel safe.
"I have to walk quite a distance, for work. I used to have to walk at 11 o'clock at night, half way up the street, so being a female, and being alone late at night, yes," said Beland. "Makes you feel safer."
She is part of an explosion of new gun owners in Connecticut.
The numbers are dramatic. In 2007, the state logged 64,000 gun sales.
In just four years that number has shot up 57 percent. Last year, more than 101,000 guns were sold here. This year, CT is on track to smash that record.
"In most instances, I could sell more guns if I could get them," Scott Hoffman said.
Hoffman owns Hoffman's guns in Newington. It is one of the top 10 gun sellers in America. His business has more than doubled in four years.
Hoffman's now sells more than 25,000 guns a year. He says the biggest factor is fear.
"People are afraid," Hoffman said. "When our economy goes bad, which it is, when unemployment is high, which it is, and people are out of work, desperate people do desperate things. And people want the ability to protect themselves."
While tragedies like the Colorado theater shooting reignite the debate over tougher gun laws, in gun stores they have the opposite effect.
The day after police say James Holmes claimed he was the joker and killed 12 at the Batman premiere, gun buyers afraid they were about to lose their rights packed Hoffman's gun store and others.
"There's always going to be people not wanting us to have guns," said Hoffman. "I mean, look at the guy in New York. He wants to outlaw soda."
The guy from New York is Mayor Michael Bloomberg; one of the nation's leading backers of tougher gun laws.
And meeting with him recently was Stephen Barton of Southbury.
Barton was shot in the face with a shotgun in the Colorado theater. Now he's leading a national push for more gun control.
"The guns that I was shot with were bought legally, but I guess the point is that our laws are not as comprehensive as they should be," said Barton.
"AK47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not citizens," said President Barack Obama.
However, those political arguments are a big reason for the huge surge in gun sales in the state and around the country.
"I think there is always that fear that if you don't get them now, you're not going to get them," said Jeff Kahn, of Mystic. "So I think that spurs a lot of people."
So with all these guns flying off the shelves, are you really safer if you own a gun? There are no easy answers.
It was just a few weeks ago that a New Fairfield man killed a masked intruder that turned out to be his 15-year-old son.
And over the summer, on a quiet street in Milford, another man, defending his family with a legally owned gun, shot and wounded a naked intruder who had broken into his home.
However, the biggest sellers in this new gun boom are small pistols, designed to be carried when you leave home.
Like Sarah Beland's brand new hot pink Ruger.
"Do a lot of your friends have permits? Have guns," asked News 8's Darren Kramer.
"Quite a few of them do. Family too," said Beland.
"We get people from all walks of life. From all races. From all genders. And they all have the same common denominator. They're afraid," said Hoffman. "They want a gun to protect themselves. That's a huge story in itself. That tells you a lot about the nature of this country right now. The way we feel. As a people. And most people are afraid."
A big beneficiary of the gun boom are gun manufacturers.
The country's fourth biggest gun maker, Sturm Ruger, is based in Southport. In the first quarter of this year they stopped taking new orders because they just couldn't make guns fast enough to fill them.
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