The number of gun sales in Virginia nearly doubled last month as the Democrat-controlled state government advanced several new gun-control bills.
There were 67,699 gun purchase-related background checks in the state during January, an 84.6 percent increase over January 2019, according to an analysis of FBI data. The number of background checks continued a three-month upward trend, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The surge in sales has coincided with a push from a newly empowered Democratic majority to pass new gun-control laws supported by Governor Ralph Northam (D).
"It's clear that Virginians are purchasing the firearms they want while they can," NSSF spokesman Mark Oliva told the Washington Free Beacon.
Pro-Second Amendment Virginians are concerned about state Democrats' efforts to tighten gun laws. Virginia Democrats have proposed banning or even confiscating popular firearms, such as the AR-15. Gun-control legislation has advanced despite months of protest from Second Amendment supporters, which culminated in a January rally at the state capital that attracted tens of thousands of gun-rights advocates.
Virginia Democrats have dropped some of their most controversial proposals, including AR-15 confiscation, in response to the backlash. They are now weighing proposals for universal background checks, a red flag law, one-gun-per-month purchase restrictions, and expanded power for localities to create gun-free zones. The state senate has passed moderated versions of each proposal, while the House of Delegates has passed more expansive bills.
Democrats enjoy slim majorities in both houses of the state legislature after record levels of outside spending from liberal groups, including millions of dollars from gun-control groups linked to 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. Gun-rights and gun-control groups are urging their supporters to contact lawmakers about an assault weapons sale ban and magazine confiscation bill that will be debated at a state house Public Safety Committee hearing on Friday.
NSSF said backers of those bills are serving their donors rather than their constituents.
"Gov. Northam and the General Assembly, that was bought and paid for by Michael Bloomberg, is fulfilling their bargain for the funding of their election and rushing head-long to restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens," Oliva said. "Virginians showed up in county meetings across the state to voice their opinions on gun-control legislation. The General Assembly ignored them. They gathered in Richmond by the tens of thousands to make their elected representative see their opposition to legislation that denies their rights. The General Assembly ignored them again."
Everytown for Gun Safety, which poured $2.5 million into the 2019 state elections, did not respond to a request for comment on the surge in gun sales.
The FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System conducts checks on all sales done through licensed gun dealers, as well as checks on gun-carry permits required by some states. The NSSF analysis subtracts the permit checks in order to find the total related to gun sales. The vast majority of gun sales in Virginia require background checks, making the NSSF analysis the closest available measure.
The NSSF analysis found that gun checks increased nationwide in January. There were 1,171,478 gun checks across the country in January 2020, an 18.6 percent surge from the same month in 2019. The group said it was the third best January on record for the gun industry, behind just 2013 and 2016.
Oliva said NSSF views the increased sales as an indictment on lawmakers for ignoring the wishes of residents.
"Virginians now are voting with their wallets and taking into their own hands their rights and responsibility before the General Assembly would steal them away," he said.