Forget the Gavin Newsom narrative, the real story on the ground in California is that more and more residents are arming themselves for personal protection.
Second Amendment activists maintain the public is safer when more “good guys with guns” are present in the community, and a majority of Americans tend to agree. A national Gallup poll in October found 56 percent of residents felt the country would be safer if more vetted and trained people were allowed to carry weapons.
“I want more guns on the streets,” said TJ Johnston, owner of AllSafe Defense Systems in Orange, which offers courses needed to obtain permits to carry weapons.
Demand for Johnston’s classes jumped after December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino by a couple who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group. The attack at a holiday party for county workers killed 14 people and wounded 22.
After last month’s terrorist bombings in Brussels, Johnston said he came to his office to find 36 voice mails. “It’s at a crescendo now,” he said.
Much of the current demand is for personal protection weapons, such as smaller pistols, said Keith Nichols, owner of OC Guns N Gear in Huntington Beach. He’s also sold more firearms to women in the past year than in any of the prior eight years, he said.
“We can’t rely on men or law enforcement in the event that we have to be our own first responders,” said Wendy Knudson, 41, of Anaheim Hills, who recently took a beginner handgun class from Johnston and hopes to get a concealed carry permit. “I want to feel confident knowing what my laws are in my state and how to properly shoot a gun if I’m in an emergency situation.”
Talk of more gun control typically spurs owners to buy more firearms and ammunition. And Nichols noticed a bump in semiautomatic weapon sales after a so-far unsuccessful attempt late last year to renew a federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
The increased gun sales and carry permits are coming in a state that has some of the nation’s strictest gun control policies.
California processed 201,041 background checks on gun sales last month, down slightly from February’s total of 214,844, but the Golden State still towers over the country, second only to Kentucky for this year so far:
“The NICS background check data began to accelerate sharply in December, after the San Bernardino and Paris incidents,” said Rommel Dionisio, a gun industry analyst with Wunderlich Securities.
“As the general election draws closer, we believe fear [about second amendment rights] will be maintained,” said BB&T Capital Markets analysts Brian Ruttenburg and Corbin Allen.
“Public interest related to Second Amendment rights, as well as gun control, has never been higher,” said Lt. Matthew Stiverson with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
With background checks in California up 36% in the first quarter compared to the same period of 2015, 2016 is on pace to break last year’s record of 23 million background checks.
Are you listening, Gavin Newsom?