MISSOULA, Mont. - Sales of firearm suppressors skyrocketed nationwide last year -- a trend that some analysts say can be traced to gun control talks in 2013, following the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Suppressors, often referred to as silencers, reduce the noise a gun makes when fired. Suppressors are cylindrical devices that gun owners attach to the end of a barrel, and they can be used on both rifles and handguns
According to federal regulators, suppressor sales in the United States grew by 37 percent in 2013. There were roughly half a million sales, compared to 360,000 in 2012 and 285,000 in 2011.
Employees at Axmen Firearms in Missoula tell us they've seen suppressor sales gradually increasing since the early '90s, but they say they did see an extra boost in sales in 2013.
"Generally speaking, people just want to stand up for their rights," said Axmen salesman Ian Mena-Wieland. "They want to make sure that they don't lose anything, be it First Amendment, Second Amendment, Fourth or Fifth. People are just concerned about losing their rights."
Some analysts say that after the Newtown massacre, many customers flocked to gun stores to purchase firearms as talk of stricter gun regulations took the national stage. Now, some analysts say, the same gun owners are stocking up on accessories.
"I think most folks are just trying to get their items grandfathered in. People are trying to get in before what they have becomes illegal," said Mena-Wieland.
NBC Montana encountered mixed reactions to news of the increased national sales when speaking with folks in downtown Missoula.
"I think there's obviously a misperception amongst gun owners that somehow they're going to have their guns taken away. The next step to silencers, though, seems pretty extreme," said Missoula-area resident Minot Maser.
"People are trying to protect themselves. It's natural. I mean, people will carry knives, they'll carry guns, some people carry rifles...Buying guns and getting accessories [is] in the Second Amendment," said Missoula-area resident Elliot Miller.
Some experts say many people are turning to suppressors for use in hunting, though that is illegal in Montana currently. Governor Steve Bullock vetoed a bill that would have changed that back in 2013