After Restrictions Lifted, Gun Ownership Soaring In Guam

After Restrictions Lifted, Gun Ownership Soaring In Guam
AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar

The U.S. territory of Guam doesn’t pop up in the news all that often, except when members of Congress fret over the possibility that the island could tip over and capsize if too many U.S. Marines are stationed there. Less than 200,000 people call the island in the Pacific home, and while it’s an important strategic location for our forces in the Pacific, it’s typically not on the radar for many of us on the mainland.

So, don’t expect a lot of headlines about the growing popularity of gun ownership on Guam, where the practice was tightly restricted until just a few years ago, when the legislature dropped its “may issue” policy on concealed carry licenses in favor of a “shall issue” system. Since then, the culture of lawful gun ownership has grown dramatically, and the Great Gun Run of 2020 has sparked even more interest in the right to keep and bear arms.

According to federal firearms reports, the number of instant background checks on Guam has increased sharply during the past decade, from 511 background checks in 2011 to 3,572 background checks in 2020.

… The number of new gun sales on island continues to climb this year, with 1,372 background checks during the first four months of 2021 — a pace that could result in more than 4,000 total background checks, and new guns sales, for Guam this year.

… On Guam, the number of background checks increased 49% between 2019 and 2020.

[Gun store owner John] Sablan said civil unrest and riots “fueled a panic buy” of guns in the nation last year. People bought so many guns, they drove up the price of ammunition, he said. Before last year, a box of 9 mm cartridges sold for as low as $18, Sablan said. It now costs $34.

Considering where Guam is located compared to most U.S. gun shops, I’m actually surprised to see that a box of 9mm doesn’t cost even more.

While the territory has loosened its policy on concealed carry licenses, there are still a number of other restrictions in place, including a requirement that all legal gun owners first obtain a Firearms ID card before they can possess a rifle, shotgun, or pistol. Still, even with that unnecessary bit of red tape still in place, residents say that gun ownership has become more popular over the past couple of years.

V.J. Camacho, 38, of Dededo, said he’s not surprised about the increased interest in firearms in Guam. He said firearms are becoming more popular, through word of mouth, friends, and through information shared on social media.

“Now, it’s a lot easier, with the facilities — you’ve got the new shooting range here — and you’ve got more people bringing in guns and ammo and stuff, so it makes it easier for people to get into the sport,” he said.

The Sportsland outdoor shooting range opened in Dededo last summer.

Camacho, who has owned firearms for more than a decade, said he has a concealed carry license.

“My dad was a police officer. My brother’s a hunter, and I just grew up around firearms,” he said.

“My boys, they’re getting bigger, and I want to teach them how to handle firearms. I’ve got firearms in the house, and I want them to learn. Every now and then I take them to the shooting range, get a feel for the gun,” Camacho said.

I have a feeling that Guam’s gun control laws were artificially suppressing the demand for firearms among the island’s residents, but the change in the concealed carry laws back in 2014 has helped to grow the culture of responsible gun ownership. New gun stores and ranges have opened up, more firearms instructors are on the island, and now that the opportunity to carry a gun in self-defense isn’t just a hypothetical possibility, more people are embracing their Second Amendment rights.

The same thing would likely happen in states like California, New York, and New Jersey if their “may issue” carry permits were scrapped in favor of a “shall issue” system, which is a big reason why gun control activists are so worried about the Supreme Court potentially overturning New York’s carry licensing system when it hears the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Cortlett in the coming months. They know that when the right to keep and bear arms is treated as a right and not a privilege, many more of us will choose to exercise our rights, and anti-gun activists want to put as many barriers as possible between citizens and their Second Amendment rights.