Gas masks selling briskly near Ferguson

Gas masks are flying off the shelves near Ferguson, Mo.

Gas masks have apparently become a hot commodity near Ferguson, Mo., after more than a week of clashes between police and protesters since an officer's fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.

Authorities have used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to control the nightly crowds that have taken to the streets to protest the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Before the uproar, Uncle Sam's Safari Outfitters, a military surplus store in nearby Manchester, did not usually carry gas masks. Now they can’t keep them in stock, said co-owner Ann Dyer.

“We completely sold out and had to order more,” she said. “We sold 60 within 15 minutes" on Monday. The store, which is about 20 miles from Ferguson, had 100 more masks delivered Tuesday morning and arranged some of them on a merchandise table near the door. 

Going for $39.99 apiece, the masks have been snapped up by both protesters and journalists, she said.

There is no age limit or other criteria for being able to buy a mask, Dyer said. There has also been a bit of a run on bulletproof vests, but those were being purchased mainly by journalists and firefighters, she said. The vests go for $299.99.

"We've only got one left," Dyer said.

Other firearm dealers in the area do not carry gas masks, and staffers at those locations have been pointing customers to online retailers to search for them. 

Sales for gas masks on Amazon have recently soared, according to the site, though it's not clear why.

In the last 24 hours, sales for the most popular gas mask sold on Amazon, the NBC 40mm NATO SGE 400/3 Anti-Riot Military mask, were up 87% as of 4:30 p.m. Pacific time, according to the site. Gas mask filter sales had risen 102%, according to the site.

Calls to Amazon for more information were not returned.

Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce contributed to this report.

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