The first new gun control laws in decades in the state of Virginia took effect on July 1st of this year, right in the middle of the Great Gun Run of 2020. Those new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms couldn’t stop hundreds of thousands of state residents from exercising their right to buy a gun, and it looks like 2020 will go down in history as the best year on record for gun sales in the state.
The Virginia Firearms Transaction Center has kept mandatory background check records, seen as the best method to gauge firearm transactions with no database tracking total purchases, on buyers in the commonwealth since 1990.
In the first 11 months of the year, 716,563 background checks for firearm sales were conducted in Virginia. The previous annual record of 505,722, set in 2016, was eclipsed by the end of September 2020.
“I’ve been in the gun industry 40 years and I’ve never seen this before,” Mark Tosh, president of Town Gun Shop Inc., told 8News. “Nothing comes close.”
While most states across the country have seen huge spikes in sales, both because of the COVID-19 shutdowns in the spring and a summer of civil unrest, Mark Oliva from the National Shooting Sports Foundation thinks that there’s another factor at work when it comes to the eye-popping numbers in Virginia.
While he said self-defense is a key factor, Oliva believes gun-control measures passed in the state legislature earlier this year motivated buyers the most.
“These are people who didn’t have a position before, but they have now chosen their position,” he continued. “Literally invested with their money.”
I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment, especially given the massive pushback that Gov. Ralph Northam and his anti-gun allies in the legislature received when they began pushing to add dozens of new gun control laws to the state statutes. More than 100 counties, cities, and towns across the state declared themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries and vowed not to enforce any unconstitutional gun control measures.
Many of the gun control bills that did pass this year were watered-down in the process, and Northam failed to achieve his main objective of a ban on so-called assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and suppressors.
Interestingly, it doesn’t appear as if Democrats have filed any gun control bills for the 2021 session yet, though at this point in 2019 we had already seen several dozen bills tossed into the legislative hopper. With just weeks to go before the 2021 session begins, we’ll likely start to see some gun control bills dropping soon, but Democrats including Northam have a big decision to make; how big a priority should gun control be?
Last year Democrats claimed that their embrace of gun control was one of the reasons why they were able to take control of the statehouse in the 2019 elections, but Democrats didn’t have a great night across Virginia in this year’s congressional elections. With every seat in the General Assembly up for election in 2021 along with the offices of governor, lt. governor, and attorney general, Democrats may be a little gun-shy (no pun intended) about pushing for more gun control after the backlash to their new gun laws and the surge in gun sales.
Back in April, Ralph Northam said he’d be bringing his proposed gun ban back before lawmakers in 2021, but that appears to be the last time he’s said anything about it publicly. I’m fairly confident that Northam won’t back away completely from his sweeping ban on commonly-owned arms, but I suspect that at least a few Democrats who are up for re-election next year (particularly those in rural and suburban/exurban districts) may have temporarily lost their appetite for the destruction of the right to keep and bear arms.