Ralph Northam was hoping to ban guns in 2020. Instead, he’s helping to sell a record number of them to Virginians. We’re seeing gun sales at record levels all across the country thanks to the COVID-19 shutdowns, concern over rising violent crime, and unrest in the streets, but in Virginia sales got a little extra boost in June thanks to the new gun control laws that took effect on July 1st.
Ahead of Gov. Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda becoming law, Virginians flocked to gun stores to stock up. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, background checks in the state more than doubled when compared to June of 2019.
Estimated firearm sales based on mandatory criminal background checks on buyers have smashed monthly records this year — first in March with 80,228 transactions, and again in June with 81,204 transactions, according to newly released figures from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which electronically conducts the checks on state retail gun purchases.
The June figure is the highest monthly total on record for any month since state police began tracking the data in 1990. It represents an increase of 157% over the number of transactions conducted during the same month in 2019.
Through June, there have been 410,493 firearm transactions in Virginia in 2020. That’s 74,000 shy of the total for all of 2019, when 484,550 were conducted. If the current trend continues, Virginia will break the annual record of 505,722 transactions set in 2016.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to smash the record set back in 2016, and Gov. Northam can take some, but not all, of the credit. His new laws, and concern that Democrats will push a gun and magazine ban during a special session that’s expected to take place later this year, have absolutely prompted some in the state to become a gun owner for the very first time. Add in the concerns over an increase in violence and calls to defund police, and you’ve got a recipe for record gun sales.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Joshua Jennings, owner of Guns, Gear & Ammo in the Danville-Martinsville area.
In just the first six months of this year, Jennings said sales have been so extraordinary that “we’ve had to buy two times what we bought all of last year, just to keep stuff in stock.”
“We’ve had some unusual buys, and what I mean by that is buyers who ordinarily would not statistically be likely to enter a gun store,” Jennings said.
That includes many first-time buyers, who Jennings estimated account for one in 10 of his customers. “And we’re getting somewhere between 40 and 45% of those people who are completely and totally unfamiliar with firearms,” he said.
Now that indoor ranges across the state have reopened, it should be a little easier for the folks who are unfamiliar with their new gun to get some hands-on training, which I highly recommend. I say a “little” easier, because I expect those ranges are going to be pretty crowded. The rise in crime in places like Richmond, which saw a 400% increase in shootings in June, coupled with the continued concern over economic uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, will likely lead the surge in gun purchases and gun ownership to continue in the months ahead.