(The Center Square) – More than 1 million Floridians underwent background checks to purchase firearms during the first seven months of 2020, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported 1.06 million background checks were conducted by Florida firearms retailers between January and July – nearly double the 579,399 recorded during the first seven months of 2019.
The surge in Florida background checks is part of a national trend as the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality protests in several major cities have spurred increased firearms sales across the country.
The FBI reported a record 3.64 million background checks nationwide in July, a 79 percent increase compared with July 2019. It was the third record month this year.
There were 210,415 background checks conducted in Florida in June, up from 85,730 in June 2019, and 190,975 conducted in July, up from 84,024 the previous July.
Overall, the FBI has conducted 22.82 million background checks nationwide this year, nearly 44 percent more than last year, when background checks through July totaled 15.89 million.
While background checks don’t directly correlate to firearms sales – some opt not to buy, others purchase more than one weapon – industry groups are reporting record sales.
Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting said nationwide firearms sales topped more than 2 million in July, a 134 percent increase over July 2019.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported firearms retailers sold more than 10.3 million firearms between January and July, about 3 million more than the first seven months of 2019.
According to NSSF, gun sales are up 95 percent from 2019 and ammunition sales are up 139 percent.
NSSF documents that while sales have increased across the board for all demographic groups, women and minorities, particularly Black men, are purchasing more firearms than they have in the past.
According to NSSF, 55.8 percent of 2020 purchases were made by white men, 16.6 percent by white women, 9.3 percent by Black men, 6.9 percent by Hispanic males, 5.4 percent by Black women and 2.2 percent by Hispanic women.
The 9.3 percent sales segment by Black men represented an increase of 58.2 percent over firearms purchased by Black men during the first seven months of 2019.
During the same span, according to NSSF, 51.9 percent more whites, 49.4 percent more Hispanics and 42.9 percent Asian-Americans purchased firearms in 2020 than they did in 2019.
Florida firearms retailers have noted an increasing trend in first-time gun buyers, which normally constitute about 10 percent of purchases. Some say it has been as high as 50 percent since March.
Florida firearms retailers also report running short on inventory, particularly ammunition, with some placing restrictions on the amount people can buy. The high demand is creating a backlog for manufacturers, who warn of shortages through the winter of 2021.
Comparatively, the number of concealed carry permit requests in Florida has declined compared with last year, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.
More than 2 million Floridians have concealed carry permits – the most in the nation.
About 18,600 permit requests were submitted in April 2019, and fewer than 11,000 were requested this past April, according to the department.
In May 2019, the department received 21,000 permit requests but only 5,300 this year, with June’s 10,300 applications about 40 percent below the 18,800 permit requests filed in June 2019.