The laws are awaiting the governor’s signature, with a deadline of April 11.
In addition to emptying shelves of toilet paper and canned goods to hunker down during the coronavirus pandemic, Virginians are also stocking up on firearms, just weeks after the General Assembly passed historic gun safety legislation in the state.
There has been a sizable increase in gun and ammunition sales in Virginia in the last month, which many store owners attribute to panic over the long term effects of the novel coronavirus and gun safety legislation the General Assembly passed this past session.
Gun sales in the Commonwealth have more than doubled in the last two months, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. There were 65,839 firearm transactions in January and 64,076 in February, which is an increase of 84% and 63% respectively. The first two months of 2020 have seen the fourth and fifth highest number of transactions since the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center started tracking transaction data in 1990.
Mike Hammond is a gun owner and the local group leader in Fauquier County for Moms Demand Action, a gun safety organization. Hammond agreed that people might be motivated to buy guns out of fear.
“I think there’s two sides to this. I think one is that people are scared and want to be able to protect their family and the other side of this is they’re scared of people who will potentially become desperate because they don’t have money to buy medicine,” Hammond said in an interview.
But Hammond’s biggest concern isn’t a drastic increase in crime during the pandemic, but that people buying guns for the first time won’t learn how they work and how best to use them safely.
“If you have no experience owning a firearm and you go out and buy one and bring it into your home, with school now canceled for the rest of the year that means kids are going to be bored at home I think that’s a situation that’s open to catastrophe,” Hammond said.
According to reports, March is on pace to be another near record breaking month for gun sales in Virginia. But the laws recently passed by the General Assembly should help increase gun safety once they take effect. The new rules to come in Virginia will strengthen background checks, limit buyers to one gun purchase per month, and prevent sales to people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Alec Shull, who works at Liberty Firearms and Surplus in Hopewell, Virginia, said the store has more than doubled its gun and ammunition sales.
“It’s two-fold because our illustrious governor wants to try to put restrictions against guns, so people were kind of freaking out about that,” Shull said in an interview. “The other thing is this coronavirus stuff that’s going around. Everybody thinks that everybody in this entire world is going to start dying and they’re going to come after all their stuff in there also and everything else. It’s more of a panic buy than it is anything else.”
Steve Clark of Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton, Virginia agreed.
“I think the uptick is for a whole bunch of reasons, people are simply worried and they don’t know why, it’s a renewed interest in guns for sure,” Clark said in an interview.