RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Thousands turned out this weekend for the first gun show in Richmond since a new universal background checks laws took effect earlier this summer.
It was also the first event of its kind since the coronavirus pandemic began back in March, according to the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Some have speculated that anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, months of civil unrest and a slew of new gun control laws in Virginia are contributing to above average sales for the gun industry.
According to data collected by Virginia State Police, 64,350 background checks were requested by federally licensed gun dealers in July 2020. That’s more than double the amount requested in July 2019.
The increase follows a record-setting month for estimated sales. June 2020 saw the highest total since VSP started recording this data in 1990 with 81,204 transactions.
Before the event started Saturday, the Showmaster’s website advised customers to come later in the day to avoid wait times and accommodate occupancy limits amid the pandemic.
Showmasters President Annette Elliott said it has been difficult to keep up with high demand and slowed production.
“The dealers are running out of guns. They’re running out of ammo. Even the manufacturers are backed up,” Elliott said.
Firearms Vendor Higinio Jimenez said he sold out before the first day of the show wrapped up.
“That’s way above average,” Jimenez said.
Asked why he thinks sales are up, Jimenez said, “Easy answer–just turn on your TV. Just look around and see what’s going on.”
Elliott believes some people are concerned about ‘rioting, looting and calls to defund the police.’
First-time buyer Caniesha Robinson is a supporter of Black Lives Matter. She spoke with 8News at the gun show on Sunday.
“There are a lot of black people who have been killed recently but I don’t think that has anything to do with people buying guns and I don’t think the police should be defunded for it,” Robinson said.
Others suspect sales surged in anticipation of new gun control laws that took effect earlier this summer, including a universal background check requirement.
State Sen. Amanda Chase, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, was at the show speaking out against the change.
“Any legislation that is put forward by the General Assembly to restrict a law-abiding citizen’s ability to protect themselves is an inch too far,” Chase said.
Democrats have said that the passage of universal background checks was a critical step to prevent firearms from ending up in the wrong hands.
The new law closes ‘the gun show loophole.’ Before sales are final, customers are now being examined for felony convictions, ongoing protective orders and severe mental health issues, among other things. Previously, private sales from unlicensed dealers at these shows were exempt from background checks.
Elliott said only a handful of her vendors are unlicensed. She doesn’t think the change will make Virginians safer.
“I don’t think it is going to do anything to criminals,” Elliot said. “Criminals don’t come into a gun show to buy guns there’s tons of law enforcement in here.”
The portion of the law requiring background checks for 18 to 21-year-olds was struck down in court earlier this year. The Attorney General’s office has not provided 8News with any updates a possible appeal.