The coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest over the last year are causing many people to purchase firearms for the first time, leading to what appears to be a record number of gun sales for the second consecutive year, NPR reported on Monday.
The first-time buyers cross ethnic, age, and political groups, as they are being driven by fear and uncertainty, as well as a common feeling that they must take control of the protection of their family.
Industry insiders added that concerns Congress will pass new gun control legislation following a large number of recent mass shootings has made the buying craze even more pronounced.
"My gun store has had a run like I've never seen before," Todd Cotta, the owner of Kings Gun Center in Hanford, California, told NPR. "It was just an avalanche of new gun buyers for the first time."
Another gun store owner, Geneva Solomon concurred, told NPR her Burbank, California based business and that of her husband have both registered an increase in sales, as well as a boost in enrollment in their firearms education classes.
"We've definitely seen an uptick in the class options we offer," she said. "Before they would never sell out. Now they sell out two days after we post them."
Observations of record-breaking demand from gun store owners is backed by FBI data, which shows that six of the top 10 days for instant background checks — which are mandated by the federal government before a licensed firearms retailer can sell a gun — took place last month.
The week of March 15 to 21 was the highest mark for FBI background checks since 1998, completing 1,218,002 total firearms checks.
In January, more than 4 million background checks were processed, up from 2.7 million in the same month last year. And in February, 3.4 million checks were reported, an increase from the 2.8 million last year in February 2020.
Last month, the FBI completed nearly 4.7 million background checks, a significant boost compared to the same month the year before, when the agency reported 3.7 million checks.
A National Shooting Sports Foundation survey last year said gun shop owners reported that 40% of customers were first time gun buyers from January until April 2020.
These first timers were buying a semiautomatic handgun at a high rate, outpacing the second-most purchased firearm, shotguns, by a 2 to 1 margin.
Despite the demand, gun shops say they are not cashing in on the boom due to a lack of inventory caused by pandemic-induced inventory issues, such as shipping delays.
"If I would've had a supply of guns and ammunition throughout this last year, it could've been a big boon for me," Cotta said. "But I'm running on 10% of the inventory I used to run with and I can't restock it even today."
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