Authorities said the nationwide surge in firearm sales may also be playing a role in the number of guns being detected at airport checkpoints.
In Virginia, guns sales soared to historic levels this year. Through October, there were 650,840 transactions, up 83% from the 355,015 transactions during the same period in 2019, according to mandatory criminal background check records maintained by Virginia State Police.
The 650,840 transactions during the first 10 months of 2020 has surpassed the old record of 505,722 transactions for all of 2016, the last year of the Obama presidency. Sales jumped in June of that year after 49 people were fatally shot in a terrorist attack inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and again in July when five officers were fatally shot and nine others wounded in an ambush in downtown Dallas.
Virginia’s spike – which largely mirrors national trends – has been attributed to a tumultuous year marked by the long-term uncertainty of COVID-19 and the economic turmoil it brought, protests over racial injustices, activists’ demands to defund the police and increased firearm restrictions passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly that some feared would dry up the availability of certain firearms and magazines.
In an examination of firearm sales nationally, the Brookings Institute, a research group based in D.C., noted that after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring a national emergency related to COVID-19, gun sales surged nationally over the next 12 days – jumping to more than 120,000 per day and peaking at 176,000 on March 16. Over 700,000 additional firearms were sold in March.