First, they came for hand sanitizer and bleach wipes. Then it was the toilet paper. Now, its guns and ammunition.
Americans are lining up at local gun shops taking stock of their safety concerns and stocking up on guns and ammunition. It’s showing that firearms continue to be a desired item and Americans are serious about providing for their safety – especially during times of uncertainty.
FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) told NSSF background check traffic saw a 300 percent increase on Monday, March 16, compared to the same day in 2019. Daily volumes are roughly double what they were a year ago.
Coupled with measures to protect health, including having state-run background check authorities working from home or possibly closing offices, this is testing the limits of NICS. That’s why NSSF and the FBI is alerting retailers that most checks will get an immediate determination (“proceed” or “deny”), although it might take longer to process a check due to the volume.
The “immediate” part will require some patience. For checks that get a “delay” notification it’s important to keep in mind that NICS investigations might be slightly delayed and the three business days mandated by the Brady Act doesn’t include days when state offices are closed. FBI NICS has assured NSSF they are working overtime to clear the unprecedented backlog.
Over the weekend, an NSSF employee helped a friend decide on the right gun he wanted for home security and general recreational shooting. He decided on a shotgun. Problem was the model he wanted wasn’t available at his local firearms retailer. They were sold out there and their other location.
That retailer called a couple other retailers to see of the model was in stock in their stores. No luck. Checks with three distributors found they were out too. He ended up with a different make and model, not quite what he set out to buy. The ordeal, though, showed the wave of buying wasn’t just rumor.
The Tampa Bay Times reported background checks for gun sales in the Sunshine State were as much as 75 percent above average. Colorado sales doubled in the past week, with 14,604 background checks through the Colorado’s Bureau of Investigation. That’s put a strain on the background check system. The Truth About Guns reported delays in Colorado growing to nearly two days and in Washington State, which recently began conducting their own checks, as long as three weeks.
The New York Times, the Associated Press and LA Times were among dozens of news outlets running stories on the run on guns and ammunition. One Los Angeles-area doctor buying a firearm told a reporter, “I want to buy a handgun, I think they call it a Glock, but I’m not sure. I have a house and a family, and they’ll need protection if things get worse. The fear is that civil services will break down.”
If the doctor was planning on walking out with the gun, he’s bound for disappointment. After background checks and registration requirements, California law mandates he’s also got to wait 10 days to take possession of his new firearm.
Ammunition sales are skyrocketing too. Bearing Arms’ Cam Edwards reported Ammo.com’s sales increased 276 percent from Feb. 23 through March 15.
Not So Easy
First time gun buyers are learning the gun control tropes of people being able to buy guns over the internet just isn’t true. Omaha Outdoors reported they were having to tell many Californians, despite what gun control politicians claim, they can’t sell and ship guns online. Those in even more restrictive states are learning the harsh realities that gun owners must endure to buy a gun and exercise rights.
- In Illinois, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New Jersey, gun owners must get a firearms owner identification card. That’s not so simple when health concerns are causing government offices to shutter.
- California requires a Firearms Safety Certificate to purchase a gun. Buying ammunition in California can only be done with its own background check.
- Connecticut requires an owner to obtain a handgun eligibility certificate. Long guns in Connecticut require their own long gun eligibility certificate. Iowa requires a five-year permit to buy a handgun.
- Maryland law requires a handgun qualification license. Those buying modern sporting rifles, or what the state defines “assault weapons” must obtain a Regulated Firearms Purchase.
- Michigan law states anyone buying a handgun must have a valid handgun purchase license issued by local law enforcement or concealed carry license.
- Nebraska buyers must have a handgun certificate or a concealed weapon permit to buy handguns.
- New York has licensing requirements for handguns that require photographs and fingerprints and the state has six months to process the license.
- North Carolina requires a permit to purchase from the county sheriff.
- Rhode Islanders must complete a two-hour safety class to obtain a safety certificate from the state’s Department of Environmental Management.
- Washingtonians must complete safety training within five years to buy semiautomatic rifles.
- Those living in Washington, D.C., don’t have to get a license to buy, but the District’s registration requirements serve the same purpose as it must be completed and signed off before purchases can be made.
Gun sales were already trending higher before widespread health concerns. Since April 2019, each month of NSSF’s adjusted NICS Reports has been higher than the year previous. Much of that can be attributed to the near-constant hammering by gun control presidential candidates who have made threats of outright confiscation to Vice President Joe Biden’s threats to allow frivolous lawsuits against the firearm industry to send it into bankruptcy by overturning the bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
The latest drive is showing Americans want to know they can provide for their own safety, especially when those vying to run the government vow to take that ability away.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.