(The Center Square) – First, toilet paper ran out. Now, bullets are being rationed in Florida.
Some firearms retailers are placing restrictions on the amount of ammunition people can buy as coronavirus-fueled gun sales surge in the “Gunshine State,” where more than 2 million residents have state-issued concealed weapons licenses.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) processed more than 10,500 transactions Wednesday, a 300 percent increase over March 18, 2019.
The FDLE said in February there were 116,238 NCIS background checks in Florida, with 21,258 filed for concealed weapons licenses and nearly 60,000 to purchase handguns.
The agency said since the beginning of March, that pace has accelerated dramatically, averaging about 3,500 firearms background checks a day, peaking at more than 10,500 on March 18.
Online ammunition retailer Ammo.com said it has experienced a dramatic spike in business since February. Ammo.com’s Florida sales were up 235 percent, it said, with sales of 9 mm ammunition up by 315 percent, 223-caliber rounds for rifles up by 368 percent and 5.56x45 rifle rounds up by 413 percent.
Some local gun stores have been tending to customers in long lines, imposing restrictions on items such as ammunition, raising concerns about the robust economic activity amid social distancing and other shutdowns.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Secretary Nikki Fried on Friday suspended renewal application fees and provided an additional 30 days to renew concealed weapons licenses set to expire.
More than 100 gun-control bills and dozens of gun-rights bills were introduced by lawmakers before the 2020 legislative session began in January. Not one passed.
Only three advanced into committee hearings:
• Senate Bill 7028, sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, would have closed to the so-called gun-show loophole. It got through one committee.
• House Bill 183, filed by Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Fort Walton Beach, would have allowed elected members of governing bodies with concealed weapons permits to carry at public meetings.
• House Bill 1437, assembled by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, would have authorized religious institutions to allow concealed armed security on site.
HBs 183 and 1437 died on the House floor after passing three committees.
SB 7028, which proposed to create a record-keeping system for private gun sales and also would have expanded the state’s red-flag laws, drew the most enmity from second amendment advocacy groups during the 2020 session, alarmed at some state Republicans’ apparent growing comfort with gun-control legislation.
In the wake of the school shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018, the Legislature adopted a quickly assembled $400 million bill that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period to buy firearms, banned bump stocks and granted greater authority to law enforcement to seize weapons under red-flag laws.
National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer has been angry since. She mocked Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, for backing SB 7028, saying in a Saturday letter he “picked a fight with law-abiding Floridians who believe in and exercise their constitutional right to Keep and Bear Arms. He lost. The bill died when session ended last week.”
Noting he received $500,000 in campaign donations in 2018 from Michael Bloomberg gun-control groups, Hammer said Galvano “set out to deliver the massive gun-control package to Bloomberg” but failed.