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Firearm, ammunition sales skyrocket heading into the presidential election

There’s been a 95% increase in gun sales compared to this time last year and a 139% increase for ammunition.

PHOENIX — Both gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed this year. 

According to the FBI, there have been more than 25,934,334 background checks through August, which provides a window into gun sales this year. 

Experts say historically there is an uptick during an election year.  

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there’s been a 95% increase in gun sales compared to this time last year and a 139% increase for ammunition.

The NSSF survey 

"Estimates and concluded that nearly 5 million Americans purchased a firearm for the very first time in 2020." Surveyed retailers reported that 40 percent of sales involved first-time buyers. "NSSF-adjusted NICS checks for January through July 2020 is a record 12.1 million, which is up 71.7 percent from the 7.1 million NSSF-adjusted NICS January through July 2019. This equates to nearly 5 million first-time gun owners in the first seven months of 2020."

Gun Shop owner Mark Healy of Healy's Firearms in Tempe has seen an uptick in both firearms and ammunition. “March 17th is when it kicked off,” said Healy. “People started to realize there was going to be a run on guns and ammunition.”  

Firearms expert Jerry McGowen says politics during an election year often motivate buyers, with many Democrats traditionally favoring tighter restrictions on guns while Republicans historically to see restrictions as an infringement on the right to bear arms. “People that have never thought about buying a gun before going into the stores and buying a firearm,” said McGowen.   

Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has laid out a plan to end gun violence in America. 

Biden's Plan

- Hold gun manufacturers accountable. In 2005, then-Senator Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but gun manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress to secure its passage. This law protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products – protection granted to no other industry. Biden will prioritize repealing this protection.

- Get weapons of war off our streets. The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them. As president, Biden will:

  • Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong. Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.
  • Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate the possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. 
  • Buyback the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act. 
  • Reduce the stockpiling of weapons. In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.

- Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal background check system (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is one of the best tools we have to prevent gun violence, but it’s only effective when it’s used. Biden will enact universal background check legislation and close other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases. Specifically, he will: 

  • Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.
  • Close other loopholes in the federal background check system. In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:
    • Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons, which President Trump reversed. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration finalized a rule to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends to the background check system records that it holds of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because they have been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons. But one of the first actions Donald Trump took as president was to reverse this rule. President Biden will enact legislation to codify this policy.
    • Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
    • Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.
    • Close the “fugitive from justice” loophole created by the Trump Administration. Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

- End the online sale of firearms and ammunition. Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.

- Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms to relinquish their weapons. Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. But we lack any serious tool to ensure that when someone becomes newly prohibited – for example because they commit a violent crime – they relinquish possession of their firearms. There are some promising models for how this could be enforced. For example, California has a mandatory process for ensuring relinquishment by any individual newly subject to a domestic violence restraining order. As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions, and then provide technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to establish effective relinquishment processes on their own.

- Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.

- Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.

- Adequately fund the background check system. President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.

President Trump has continually attacked the Democratic gun-control platform. In April while discussing the Covid-19 pandemic, took aim at Virginia gun laws. "They want to take their guns away. Okay? They want to take their guns away. That's the Second Amendment. That's Virginia. You have a governor who really -- I guess he should be under siege; he seems not to be. If he were a Republican, he'd be under siege,” said Trump. 

But now the pandemic and social unrest are also factors and Healy agrees Covid-19 and social injustice have contributed to gun and ammunition sales.  

“Now it’s more of a defund the police. Am I on my own? Am I going to get a police response if I dial 911,” said Healy.   

However, both Healy and McGowen caution against the public panicking and say new gun owners should also receive training when handling a firearm.