During the COVID-19 pandemic, background checks related to gun sales have surged in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), more than 1 million gun-related background checks were requested within the first nine months of 2020. Many of the firearms are being sold to first-time gun owners who often cite personal protection as the reason they wish to own a firearm. Additionally, the number of Florida background checks reflects a national increase in firearm background checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Details on the surge in gun sales
Many Florida gun store owners have reported that sales have more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. FLDE data suggests that gun sales peaked in June 2020 when over 180,000 gun background checks were performed within the state. In June, the number of gun background checks was more than double the amount the FLDE conducted in 2019. In some stores, as much as 80 percent of guns are being sold to first-time owners. Additionally, some anecdotal evidence suggests that many people are purchasing guns for protection in response to economic instability, civil unrest, and crime-related fears.
In addition to the increase in gun background checks, a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) report states that the agency has received over 130,000 new concealed weapon permit applications since July 1, 2020. The FDACS report also shows that over 50,000 concealed weapon permit applications have been filed within the same period. Nearly 105,000 of the submitted new permit applications and over 45,000 renewal permit applications have been granted.
Concerns over the increase in gun sales
While many gun store owners are excited to see an increase in business during the Coronavirus pandemic, some gun safety advocates have expressed concern that some new gun owners may be hesitant to take safety courses. While Florida law requires completing a gun training course for concealed weapon permits, no training is required to purchase a firearm.
“By taking a gun training course, a person could learn how to use their firearm in a safe and better way,” said Attorney Douglas Leifert of Leifert & Leifert. “This could help them avoid receiving a criminal charge, such as illegal discharge or carry-related violations.”
In addition to recommendations for new gun owners to receive firearm safety training, many experts advocate for long-time gun owners to refresh their training periodically. This includes Mark Olivia of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who stated that even experienced gun owners should regularly take classes to maintain their weapons training.
National firearm background checks
In addition to Florida, gun-related background checks may be increasing across the country. Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) shows that nearly 40 million firearm background checks occurred in 2020, the highest number the agency has conducted in 20 years. Of the months in 2020, December had the highest number of gun-related background checks with over 3.9 million national background checks.
Gun safety best practices
There are many actions recommended by gun safety experts that can be used to proactively prevent a firearm-related incident from occurring. This includes keeping your gun pointed in a safe direction until ready to fire. Additionally, keeping your finger away from the gun trigger and keeping a firearm unloaded could help prevent an accidental discharge. Lastly, many safety experts recommend storing a firearm safely away from children or unauthorized users.