Hunting and gun ownership are a way of life for Al Poisson.
It's a tradition that was born out of necessity for the 48-year-old Ann Arbor resident's family. Mr. Poisson's grandfather took to the Canadian woods in fall and winter to hunt moose, bear, and deer. Without those kills, his family would have starved.
"It's more than just a sport for us," Mr. Poisson said.
Mr. Poisson, a first-generation American citizen who owns more than 20 guns, said he has never voted but feels extremely motivated to cast a ballot against President Obama this November. He is concerned that the massacre at a Colorado movie theater two weeks ago will become a Democratic Party pawn in the political war over gun control.
"You should be able to carry a gun just about anywhere except where there is alcohol involved," Mr. Poisson said. "The guy who went crazy at the theater, he should have died in a hail of return fire from the crowd."
Mr. Poisson is not alone in his feelings.
In recent years, gun purchases in both Ohio and Michigan have surged, according to national background checks and gun licensing numbers.
The shooting that left 12 dead and 58 wounded in Colorado has fueled a national gun-control debate and prompted some politicians to call for tougher laws or a ban on assault weapons.
The suspect in the shootings at the theater used several legally purchased guns during the rampage.
The weapons included an AR-15 that had an ammunition clip capable of holding 100 rounds. The laws that allowed the shooter to buy those weapons now are under attack and have gun activists afraid a government crackdown is imminent.
Customers of Todds Guns in Lambertville began stocking up on magazines that can hold 60 or 100 rounds immediately after the shooting. The 60-round and 100-round magazines, which typically are popular sellers, still are flying off the shelves, said Todd Bruning, owner of the store.
"They are worried about stuff being banned," Mr. Bruning said. "If you have it and it gets banned, it is grandfathered in."
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, doesn't see the point in allowing people to purchase assault weapons or magazines that hold large amounts of ammunition. It's not necessary for hunting or sport, she said.
"You don't need an assault weapon in your home to fire that many rounds to defend yourself," Ms. Hoover said. "It is for killing people."
By the numbers
Tracking how many people own assault weapons, or any firearm for that matter, is impossible. A national registry of gun owners does not exist. The FBI, however, does keep records of background checks performed to screen potential gun owners.
From 2000 to 2011, background checks increased 71 percent in Ohio and 19 percent in Michigan, according to statistics maintained by the FBI, which reviewed 468,974 requests in Ohio and 365,635 in Michigan last year.
Through last month, the FBI's 313,971 background checks in Ohio were seventh highest in the United States this year. The most were in Kentucky, the 26th most populous state, where the FBI conducted 1.45 million background checks for firearms purchases.
The FBI has run 150 million background checks since November, 1988, including about 4.7 million for Ohioans.
Registration for carrying a concealed weapon in Ohio has been on the rise since 2006. The state issued 18,781 permits in that year.
This year, that number has grown to 49,828, a 165 percent increase. That number jumped 138 percent in Michigan; 36,754 permits were issued in 2006 and 87,637 were issued last year.
It's not surprising that more people want to buy guns or carry concealed weapons, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said. People want to be able to protect themselves and their families, he said.
"People have a right to bear arms and law-abiding people should have the right to have guns," he said. "I don't care what regulations you put in, criminals are going to find a way to get a gun."
Theresa Cleland, owner of Cleland's Outdoor World in Swanton, one of the oldest gun dealers in the Toledo area, said she has not seen a "huge impact" in sales since the Colorado shooting. However, she has noticed over the years an increasing interest from an array of people who want to own a gun.
"The police do not have the manpower they used to, so people feel they need to take care of themselves," she said. "I don't think there is any typical gun owner anymore. They go from young to old."
Controversy surrounding gun control tends to heighten in election years, said Darrell West, vice president of governance studies and an expert in American politics at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution.
"Colorado will spur conversations about why we have such a problem with violence, but it's hard to see there being stricter gun laws in the current political climate," he said.
Democratic candidates won't touch the debate over gun control because it could cost them the election or the wrath of the National Rifle Association, Mr. West said.
"I don't think there are going to be any changes in the gun laws. The politicians see the issue as radioactive and they don't want to touch it," he said.
Steve Thompson, owner of Adco Firearms in Sylvania, said that June through August typically is slow, but he expects a sales bump this fall because of the upcoming presidential election; he routinely sells more guns as people worry about regulation. He said his shop sells only personal-defense weapons.
"It's an election year, and election years, starting in September, everyone in the general public starts thinking there will be more gun control," Mr. Thompson said.
Mr. Obama has not pushed for gun-control measures as President but has voiced support for a renewed ban on assault-type weapons.
The White House reports that Mr. Obama favors "robust steps, within existing law" to address gun issues. He has not thrown his support behind the Democratic bill introduced after the Colorado shooting that would enforce stricter gun-sale policies.
His expected challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, supported several gun-control laws as Massachusetts governor but has since changed his position to stating that he will enforce the laws already in place but is opposed to adding new regulations, according to his 2012 campaign Web site.
Politicians eager to ban assault weapons include Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who is trying to use veto power to ban those guns and large-capacity ammunition clips. State lawmakers can accept or override his changes, which specifically would ban the AK-47, AR-15, and TEC-9 semi-automatic weapons.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D., N.Y.) also announced federal legislation last week to ban large-capacity clips.
After being asked by a reporter last week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, said the federal assault weapons ban "was of very little use" and doesn't think the nation needs a debate on gun control.
"Look, the problem that we have is, let's get to the basics of the violence," he said. "It's issues that surround some things like mental illness. We don't know the full story with this guy [Colorado suspect]."
Mr. Kasich added: "You can go out and try to put all the bans on you want. If people are intent on doing something, they're going to do it and it begins to erode the ability of law-abiding people to be able to be part of the Second Amendment, so I don't think that is where this discussion is right now … I don't think we're now in any sort of a gun-control phase on this."
Last year, the governor signed a law that made it legal to carry a gun in bars and other places that serve alcohol such as arenas, stadiums, and reception halls.
The problem doesn't lie with guns or the laws regulating them; it's with the people who pull the trigger, Mr. Poisson said. Until people who misuse guns are harshly punished, the problems will continue, he said.
"Guns don't kill people -- people kill people. It's absolutely correct," he said. "That gun did not have malice or forethought."
Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.
Contact Kris Turner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.