In pandemic, gun sales booming


Alan Campbell, right, talks to Tom Meyer, a customer, left, about some of the features of a Poly Witness 9 mm handgun at the Ocala Armory on West Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, July 13, 2020. Sandy Brygider, the owner of Ocala Armory, said that gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

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Posted August 3, 2020 | By Bill Thompson, Deputy Editor

Alan Campbell, right, talks to Tom Meyer, a customer, left, about some of the features of a Poly Witness 9 mm handgun at the Ocala Armory on West Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, July 13, 2020. Sandy Brygider, the owner of Ocala Armory, said that gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Sandy Brygider has been in the gun business for 50 years. And in all that time, he’s never seen a moment like this.

“It’s unprecedented,” said Brygider, owner of the Ocala Armory, a gun store on west State Road 40.

He was referring to gun sales.

Regardless of type of gun, Brygider said, the inventory is “virtually nonexistent.”

“There are no more guns to be had,” he said.

The same is true of ammunition, he added. “It’s flown off the shelves, and the prices have gone up,” said Brygider.

The reason, to him at least is clear: fear.

Brygider estimates that 80 percent of his sales have been weapons intended for self-defense, many by first-time gun buyers. Collectors have purchased the rest and hunters, as of the moment, are not in the market, at least at the Ocala Armory.

“People look around and see all the shenanigans going on with these liberal, Democratic-controlled cities and decide they need to protect themselves and their families,” he said.

Gun sales are not tracked in America.

But there are a couple of rough barometers by which they can be gauged: federal background checks and state concealed-carry license applications.

Nationally, FBI background checks related to potential firearms purchases were up 38 percent for the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period last year.

The FBI processed 19.2 million requests between Jan. 1 and June 30, which included setting a new monthly record, 3.9 million, in June. The previous monthly record – 3.7 million – had been set in March.

FBI records show that seven of the top 10 weeks historically for such inquires have occurred during 2020, as did five of the top 10 individual days. The agency handled more than 1 million requests during the weeks of March 16 and June 1.

Within Florida, the FBI handled 873,391 background checks for the first six months of the year. That was up 50 percent over the first half of 2019.

Florida records concealed carry license applications in accordance with its fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30.

Statewide, for the first half of fiscal year 2020, which ended on June 30, total applications for those permits outpaced the total during the second half – 85,114 to 78,820.

But requests for renewed licenses raged during the latter half of the year. Applications to continue a license soared to 92,210 for the first six months of this year, compared to 62,677 such requests over the first half of last year.

The trend for Marion County, however, was more licenses all the way around.

Between July 2019 through December 2019, 1,802 county residents applied for a new concealed-weapon permit. Between January and June that jumped 33 percent, to 2,420.

Guns are shown for sale at the Ocala Armory on West Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, July 13, 2020. Sandy Brygider, the owner of Ocala Armory, said that gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

Not surprisingly the biggest chunk of those submitted during 2020 occurred in March, when coronavirus shutdown restrictions tightened, and in June, after the riots and looting following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In just those two months alone, 1,153 county residents petitioned for a license to carry a weapon.

And much like the state trend, local renewals picked up considerably during the first six months of this year.

Between Jan 1 and June 30, 2,019 county residents sought renewed concealed-carry licenses, compared to 1,251 for the period of July 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, an increase of 61 percent.

Erich Pratt, senior vice president for the Gun Owners of America, concurred that fear is a motivating factor right now.

“People are buying guns in record numbers because they’re scared of what’s happening across the country. They are scared of looters and rioters; they are worried that police may not be able to protect them,” Pratt said in an email.

He added that some estimates indicate 2 million Americans became new gun owners in 2020, which would represent 40 percent of this year’s total sales thus far. Many of these buyers are purchasing semi-automatic handguns, shotguns, and modern rifles like the AR-15 — firearms tailored for self- and home-defense roles.

“These new gun owners, including some who were previously anti-gun, are taking their safety into their own hands,” said Pratt.