In the three days after the ‘Batman massacre’, which killed 12 people and injured 58, applications for background checks needed in order to purchase a gun legally rocketed 43 per cent on the previous week.

According to data from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, 880 people applied for checks on the day before the shooting. This jumped to 1216 on the day immediately after the gun rampage, and 1243 the day after that.

A total of 2887 people were approved to buy a gun over the weekend following the shootings – an increase of 43.5 per cent on the previous weekend.

While the bureau does not appear to have data on how many people then went on to buy a gun, a local gun shop owner told the Denver Post that sales were “off the hook”.

Dick Rutan, owner of Gunners Den in the Colorado town of Arvada, told the paper: “They want to have the ability to protect themselves and their families if they are in a situation like what happened in the movie theatre.” 

Another local gun shop employee said: “A lot of it is people saying, ‘I didn’t think I needed a gun, but now I do’.”

James Holmes, 24, appeared in court this week to hear the charges against him. He is accused of throwing canisters of gas into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and then firing at random into the crowd.

Twenty of the people he shot remain in hospital, six of them in a critical condition.

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