Actor Christian Bale and his wife Sibi Blazic view a cross and large display of flowers and stuffed animals dedicated to Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, the youngest of the 12 victims of Friday's mass shooting, Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at a memorial in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed when a gunman opened fire during a late-night showing of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises," which stars Bale as Batman. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Sapa-AP and The Independent

Denver, Colorado

Gun sales have surged in Colorado since the state became the scene of the worst mass shooting in the US.

Local authorities reported a huge spike in the number of gun stores running background checks on potential customers, and shooting ranges are now booked up for weeks.

The figures suggest that many locals have responded to the rampage that killed 12 people at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in the Denver suburb of Aurora in the early hours of Friday not with a new campaign to ban semi-automatic weapons and handguns, but with a determination to arm themselves in self-defence.

At Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo there was a queue of more than 15 people outside the store when it opened that Friday morning, with brisk sales ever since.

“It’s been insane,” store employee Jake Meyers said. “A lot of it is people saying ‘I didn’t think I needed a gun, but now I do’. When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing – ‘Hey, I go to the movies’.”

According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, it approved background checks for 2 887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm between Friday and Sunday, a 43 percent increase on the previous weekend. It ran 1 216 checks on Friday alone.

While some liberal politicians have demanded tighter restrictions to make it harder for the likes of shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes to build an arsenal of weapons, President Barack Obama sidetracked the issue of putting gun control at the forefront of the political agenda in his remarks in Aurora.

Public support for new gun laws has fallen and the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association has grown in recent years, despite a string of mass killings. One Colorado Congressman, Ed Perlmutter, who has pushed for tighter restrictions in the wake of last week’s incident, received invective on his Facebook page from gun lobby supporters.

One post read: “If ONE person inside that theatre was armed, this situation would NOT have been as bad as it is. Stricter gun control means NOTHING to the criminal.”

Police in Maine yesterday unveiled details of a huge cache of weapons found in the home of one resident who told them he was on his way to shoot a former employer a day after watching The Dark Knight Rises.

Timothy Courtois had been stopped for speeding when a police search of his car found an AK-47 assault weapon, four handguns, ammunition and news clippings about the killings in Aurora.

Separately, moviegoers in Sierra Visa, Arizona, panicked when a man who appeared intoxicated was confronted by security guards during a showing of the movie. The Cochise County Sheriff’s office said it caused “mass hysteria”, and about 50 people fled the cinema.

Meanwhile, Batman star Christian Bale visited survivors of the Colorado theatre shooting on Tuesday and stopped by a makeshift memorial to victims of the attack that killed 12 people and injured 58.

Carey Rottman, one of those injured in Friday’s shooting at a theatre showing The Dark Knight Rises, posted two photos of himself with Bale on his Facebook page. Hospital staff also posted a Facebook photo of the actor with some staff members.

An online campaign had urged Bale to visit survivors of the shooting.

After visiting The Medical Center of Aurora, Bale and his wife Sibi Blazic stopped by a makeshift memorial to the victims near the cinema.

Bale walked among the 12 crosses erected for each of the slain victims. Many people there didn’t realise who he was, or chose to leave him alone.

A Warner Bros spokeswoman told The Denver Post that Bale was representing himself, not the movie studio.

Bale, who stars as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, previously issued a written statement saying: “Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.”

Obama and members of the Denver Broncos football team have also made hospital visits to some of the survivors of Friday’s massacre.

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