In California, Background Checks for Guns Ballooned by 72 Percent Last Month

Amid the coronavirus crisis, new gun buyers are getting strapped

The near-constant lines outside L.A.’s gun stores were early indicators of a trend, but now the numbers confirm that Californians have caught firearm fever.

Nationwide, the FBI reports that the number of background checks initiated for gun purchases in the third week of March set a one-week record totaling 3.7 million—the highest national monthly number since 1998, when President Clinton permanently banned more than 50 types of firearms labeled “assault rifles” from being imported into the U.S.

And that frantic desire for firepower is reaching a fever pitch in California, ABC 7 reports.

With 164,000 people registering for background checks to buy a gun in March, that’s a 72 percent increase from February, and a 34 percent hike from March 2019. This is California’s highest number of potential new gun buyers in three years, and the among the 20 highest months in two decades.

Last week, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that his department would be shuttering Los Angeles gun shops as non-essential, saying, “That is not a license, then, for everyone to do a panic gun buy and [rush] to stores, which is now what we’re seeing. That violates the whole issue of social distancing, and it’s creating its own attractive nuisance.”

Later he reversed course, saying in a statement that, after reviewing federal guidelines, the shops are, in fact, essential services and will remain open for business.

“Based on this further input from the federal government, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition.”

RELATED: Coronavirus Has Inspired a Run on Guns in Los Angeles

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