In this Jan. 20 photo, demonstrators stand outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va. Gov. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
In this Jan. 20 photo, demonstrators stand outside a security zone before a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va. Gov. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Sales since laws took effect this month outpace the entire month of June 2019

Seven new gun safety laws hit the books on July 1 in Virginia, and despite months of activists claiming Virginians wouldn’t be able to buy guns anymore, the new regulations aren’t slowing down historic gun sales in the commonwealth.

In the first two weeks of July, the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center (FTC) says they completed a total of 31,742 background checks. That is more than the 31,501 background checks the office completed in the entire month of June 2019, before any of these laws were passed. In other words, double the number of Virginians have been able to get a gun in the first two weeks of July, even with new gun safety laws in effect, than they did in June last year. 

This year has seen a drastic increase in gun purchases in Virginia. In June of 2020, the FTC reported 81,204 background checks completed. If the July numbers stay consistent, they won’t be far behind last month’s total, even though the new gun safety laws are in effect. 

Corinne Geller, who serves as the public relations director for the Virginia State Police, said there is one background check per customer, not per firearm, meaning the total number of firearms purchased could be higher if customers bought more than one gun in a single transaction. 

In April, the Virginia General Assembly passed a package of gun safety laws as part of an ambitious legislative agenda for the state, after Democrats took the statehouse for the first time since 1993. Their promise to enact these laws, however, was meant with intense pushback from anti gun safety activists, including a massive rally in Richmond in January, and several local governments saying they’d refuse to enforce the laws. 

None of the new gun laws would take away firearms from individuals who have purchased and are using their guns legally. Instead, they increase the penalty for recklessly leaving firearms around children, give localities the ability to ban guns from public places, like recreation centers or parks, and require universal background checks for firearm transfers. They also include a “red flag” law, which allows authorities to remove guns from someone deemed a threat to themselves in others, and is on the book in 18 other states.

Heather Foglio with the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America said none of the new laws pose an excessive nuisance for gun store owners or people interested in buying guns. 

“Several of the new laws, including background checks and the red flag law, have been held up in court as constitutional and they don’t prevent law abiding citizens from getting their hands on guns,” she said. 

Foglio explained that she was pleased to see a law red flag law placed on the books. 

“Two thirds of Virginia’s gun violence is suicide by gun and that’s an average of 600 people a year, or one Virginian every 14 hours, which is just really hard to think about,” she said. “So that law in particular will save a lot of lives in Virginia.”