Despite Restrictions, More Than 1,000,000 Guns Sold In California Last Year

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

The state of California the officials in charge of many parts of the state certainly didn’t make it easy to purchase a firearm last year. In addition to the draconian restrictions already in place like a 10-day waiting period, bans on modern sporting rifles and virtually every new model of handgun introduced in the past decade, Gov. Gavin Newsom declined to declare gun shops “essential businesses,” leaving it up to mayors and county officials to decide whether or not to shut down gun stores or allow them to remain open. In the Bay Area, that meant that many gun stores were ordered closed for months on end, and similar closures took place in Los Angeles, San Diego, and other coastal population centers controlled by Democrats.


Despite those heavy-handed attempts to prevent Californians from exercising their Second Amendment rights, it’s clear that many residents were intent on purchasing a firearm for self-defense. Rob Bonta, the state’s Attorney General, announced on Thursday that more than 1,000,000 firearms were legally sold in the state in 2020. Of course, since this is California we’re talking about you’d better believe that Bonta isn’t happy that so many people embraced their right to keep and bear arms.

“Gun violence is an epidemic in this country,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We are fortunate in California to have commonsense gun laws that help combat the epidemic and keep the public safe. With one of the lowest firearm mortality rates in the country, we’ve seen our laws work. However, some tools, like our red flag laws, aren’t being used enough. There is something we can all do: pay attention to those around you. If you believe a coworker, family member, classmate, or student poses a danger to themselves or others, don’t wait – consider requesting a GVRO. Doing so could help save not only their life, but the lives of others as well.”

In 2020, handgun sales in California increased 65.5%, from 414,705 in 2019 to 686,435 in 2020; while the sale of long guns increased 45.9%, from 329,311 in 2019 to 480,401 in 2020. The increase is on track with a national rise in gun sales in 2020. Last year, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed a record 39.7 million background checks – up from 28.4 million in 2019. Given the variations in state laws, background checks do not directly represent the number of firearms sold, but they are a key indicator of sales.


According to the AG, the increase in handgun sales was the biggest one-year jump in state history, while the number of rifles and shotguns sold last year was the most since 2016 and second highest figure recorded in the state.

Most of us would view that as a good thing, but for Bonta it’s a sign of danger. That’s why he’s touting the state’s newly expanded Red Flag law, which allows almost anyone to petition a court to take someone’s guns away with few due process protections and no attempt to ensure that individuals who’ve been declared a danger to themselves or others actually receive any sort of mental health treatment (or even a diagnosis by a doctor instead of a judge).

California’s anti-gun politicians are willing to do almost anything to curtail legal gun ownership, but while they can change the law it’s harder for them to change hearts and minds. As the world was melting down last year, hundreds of thousands of Californians responded by purchasing a firearm for self-defense; many of them for the very first time. And if officials like Gavin Newsom hadn’t allowed the closure of gun stores and gun shows across the state, those sales figures would be even higher. It’s good to acknowledge that even in California we had record-setting gun sales last year, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the state’s gun control laws and its anti-gun politicians still resulted in an unknown number of residents being blocked from exercising their Second Amendment rights.


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