Virginia Gun Sales Skyrocket as 2016 Record Shattered in Just 9 Months

Gun sales in Virginia have reached record-breaking figures in 2020, with three months of the year still to go.

According to data from the Virginia Firearms Transaction Center, which has been tracking mandatory background checks since 1990, there have been 587,107 background checks in Virginia through September.

This figure has already beaten the previous record of 505,722, which was set in 2016.

The rise in gun sales in the state matches a trend that has been seen across the country this year.

According to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System—the best way to measure gun sales nationally—there were more than 3.9 million checks in June, the highest since records began in 1998. The second-highest figure on record, of more than 3.7 million, came in March of this year.

The FBI's data reveal that Virginia also saw a record number of background checks in June at 84,124. This figure overtook the previous highest number of 83,675, which occurred in March.

It is believed that a mixture of the coronavirus outbreak, the Black Lives Matter protests stemming from the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd in May and the upcoming election has contributed to the rise in gun sales this year.

"Protests quickly morphed into riots and violence and people are reacting to calls to defund the police," Mark Oliva, the director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told WAVY. "This is not just happening in Seattle, Portland or Kenosha, it was happening in Richmond as well."

Oliva also cited a string of new gun laws implemented in Virginia in July—one month after the highest monthly figure—as a factor for the increase in sales. The new laws included stricter background checks and the banning of purchasing more than one handgun a month.

Karen Ballengee, store owner of Southern Gun World in Chesterfield, said she has sold around 3,000 more guns this year compared to 2019, including 485 sold in June as protests in Virginia broke out.

"We have had to limit the ammo to one box per customer that comes in," Ballengee told WAVY.

Matthew Hill, owner of the Liberty Arms store in Harrisonburg, also described how his sales have increased since the pandemic began in March.

He said anxiety about the election meant demand for guns and ammunition remains high at his store

"They don't talk about it as much, but we still hear people talking about that with the elections coming up, the uncertainty of whoever becomes president," Hill told WHSV.

"There's a lot of uncertainty still, so that has been still driving some sales."

A man chooses a gun at the Gun Gallery in Glendale, California, 18 April 2007. Gun sales in Virginia have broke a record set in 2016 in just nine months. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty