Owner of Ade's Gun Shop, Emily Atkinson, shoulders a Stag Arms 5.56 AR-15 rifle at her shop on Jan. 2, 2013 ( Jebb Harris-The Orange County Register-ZUMA Press-Corbis)
If you're a woman or can remember the Kennedy Administration, you're the gun industry's new target audience.

The rush to buy guns, magazines and various other firearm ephemera before Congress decides on new gun laws has cast a wide net around first-time buyers.

According to Reuters and the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, women and older Americans were the key growth areas when mandatory background checks for firearm sales at U.S. gun stores rose nearly 50% year-over year-year in December.

That doesn't mean more folks from each demographic were buying guns, however. In 1977, the University of Chicago's nationwide General Social Survey showed that 54% of American households reported owning guns. By 2010, the last time the survey data was compiled, reported gun ownership fell to 32%. A 2011 Gallup survey suggested that 23% of U.S. women owned guns, though the General Society Survey says that number is closer to 10%.

No, this likely means that both women and older Americans who own guns are buying a whole lot more of them. The guns they're buying have changed, though. Philip Mincey, an employee at DCM Consulting and Firearms in Longs, S.C., told Reuters that assault rifles and semi-automatic hand guns have jumped from 40% of total gun sales just a few years ago to about 75% now.

Yet both investors and those within the gun industry have doubts about the recent run on guns, which began after a deadly shooting last summer at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and intensified after the massacre of elementary school students in Newtown, Conn.

A few days after the Newtown killings, private equity company Cerberus Capital Management sold gun maker Freedom Group, whose Bushmaster AR-15 rifle was used in the school shootings (a point that continues to be argued by a few gun-rights proponents), after pressure from the California State Teachers' Retirement System. Earlier this month, New York City's teacher pension fund and California Public Employees' Retirement System sold their investments in several gun makers.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's proposals to curb gun violence, including enhanced background checks and a ban on military-style firearms, have been enough to make even gun buyers believe they stand a chance of passing. Though gun companies are struggling to keep up with demand, the lingering sense of dread felt by gun owners likely won't be assuaged by demographic data and sales to their fellow gun-toting friends.

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