Herald/DAVID MORRIS - Many of the models of guns come in a variety of colors. "Soldiers are buying pink guns for their wives so they feel protected when they deploy," Dave Cheadle, manager of Guns Galore in Killeen said.

By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

The number of Bell County residents applying for gun licenses increased in 2007, but that does not mean more guns were purchased.

The number of gun licenses issued in Bell County increased by 300 people from 2006 to 2007.

There were 910 gun licenses issued in Bell County in 2006, and 1,210 gun licenses were issued in Bell County during 2007, according to information released from the Texas Department of Public Safety's Concealed Handgun Licensing Bureau. An increase in licenses issued does not mean gun sales will increase, it just introduces a greater number of people into the market who can legally buy guns.

At the beginning of last year, Guns Galore in Killeen celebrated record-breaking sales seven months in a row, said store clerk Fred Brannan.

A gun store in Copperas Cove, TJ Sports, opened last year, said Gean Tran, the store's manager and owner.

Gun sales are currently not as high as in previous months, but they are staying steady, Brannan said, who has only been working at the store since last December.

"Gun sales here tie heavily to the military," Brannan said.

When soldiers come home from deployment they are likely to come back and purchase a gun for a number of reasons, Brannan said. They have been saving money, and some of them are just reaching the age to purchase a gun, he added.

"You always have some soldiers getting paid and coming in to buy weapons," Brannan said.

First-time gun owners are customers at TJ Sports and Guns Galore, too.

"We do get a lot of first-time firers, people (who) have never actually fired a gun for any amount of time before," Brannan said.

These people come to purchase guns for a number of reasons. Some are enthusiasts and others are seeking to protect themselves.

Brannan has heard his share of stories from people who have been victimized, he said.

It is always shocking to him how many of these people's stories never make it to the media, he said.

TJ Sports and Guns Galore seek to help those people by trying to determine what means of protection would be good for them, each said.

"(A gun) is not something that is a toy for you to go and play with," Tran said. "You have to know the safety and the rules. Once you have a gun there is a big responsibility."

Guns Galore offers mace and stun guns for people who have been victimized but are not comfortable with guns, Brannan said.

TJ Sports does as well, Tran said.

"What are you comfortable with – sometimes people are OK with a shotgun, sometimes mace," Brannan said. "There are all kinds of people."

Contact Mason W. Canales at mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7554.

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