Gun sales soared in Virginia as Democrats passed several new gun-control measures during February, according to an industry report.
Nearly 66,000 background checks were performed in Virginia in February as the state's Democratic-controlled legislature weighs a number of strict background checks—a steep increase from the 40,381 checks performed in February 2019. Virginia experienced one of the most dramatic upticks in background checks—a strong indicator of total sales—in the nation, according to data released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Gun sales are up nationwide with average growth rates of 16.7 percent, according to the report, but the surge was especially dramatic in Virginia where checks rose by 63.4 percent compared to 2019.
The spike in Virginia gun sales, which have increased for four consecutive months, shows that guns remain at the forefront of many residents' minds. While Democrats dropped a proposal to ban so-called assault weapons after facing public backlash from Second Amendment activists, they have moved forward on seven other gun-control measures; five have already passed through both chambers while two more are slated for a conference committee. The remaining proposals—including a red flag bill, a one-gun-a-month purchase limit, and a universal background check bill—appear to be enough to drive Virginians to their local gun stores.
Mark Oliva, an NSSF spokesman, said sales figures should send a clear message to lawmakers as they weigh potential restrictions.
"Virginians are continuing to exercise their freedoms and voting with their wallets," he told the Washington Free Beacon. "They see that their elected representatives are infringing on their Second Amendment rights and they're buying the firearms they want to provide for their own protection."
NSSF's projections are based on a review of the number of checks processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). All gun sales made by licensed dealers are required to run through NICS before they can proceed. Many states also use the system for checks related to gun-carry permits, with some rechecking permits monthly, which can drive up the total number of NICS checks. NSSF reviews the raw NICS numbers to determine how many were directly related to gun sales.
The NSSF's adjusted NICS numbers are not a one-to-one representation of total gun sales for a number of factors. Some states use gun-carry permits as substitutes for NICS checks during gun sales, a single NICS check can be used for the sale of multiple guns in the same transaction, and most sales between nonlicensed individuals do not require NICS checks. However, NSSF's adjusted NICS numbers are still considered the most accurate estimate of monthly gun sales available because they do capture the vast majority of sales.
Virginia has become the epicenter in America's fight over guns since Democrats took control of the state legislature in 2019. In addition to increased gun sales, Virginians have expressed their concerns about new gun-control proposals in more direct ways. Nearly every county in the state has declared itself a Second Amendment "sanctuary," vowing not to enforce gun laws localities see as unconstitutional. The battle over gun control culminated in one of Virginia's largest demonstrations in decades, as tens of thousands of residents showed up for a Virginia Citizens Defense League public rally in January.
Oliva said Virginia lawmakers largely ignored those efforts, but they should take notice of the spike in gun sales.
"Virginia's legislators didn’t listen to voter sentiment with their Second Amendment [sanctuary] resolutions that were passed and failed to listen to the peaceful rally held in Richmond," he told the Free Beacon. "They would be wise to listen to the voters who are making their voice heard now through their wallets."