SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - 2020 was a tumultuous year that stirred-up uncertainty, and fear in many Americans.
But that fear, may have caused one market, to boom. Gun sales skyrocketed in Georgia and South Carolina in 2020.
Data the FBI just released on gun background checks, for 2020 shows gun sale records were shattered nationwide. The Coastal Empire and Lowcountry were no exception.
The ‘National Instant Criminal Background Check System’ - better known as “NICS” - is considered the most reliable way to track gun sales in the U.S. And, newly-released numbers for the year 2020 show a whopping increase.
Nationwide, 28 million background checks were recorded in 2019. 2020 shattered that number with more than 39,695,000 background checks. An increase of more than 11 million.
In Georgia, background checks jumped at an even higher rate from 539,000, to over 900,000. South Carolina saw a big jump, too from about 330,000 to 530,000.
“This was something we have never seen before in this industry, because it was a rush on every part of it,” said Shane Brown, Director of Operations and Training at Thunderbolt Guns.
Brown says, their sales tripled in 2020. He says certain events triggered the increase.
“We’ve had the virus, we’ve had elections, we’ve had protests, we’ve had a lot of reasons why people are really worried now for their own protection.”
When the coronavirus first threatened to shut-down the country, shop owners say guns started flying-off the shelves.
Even with some forced to close their doors. Georgia recorded 84,000 background checks in March.
That’s an increase of more than 27,000 from 2019.
South Carolina also set a state record in March with more than 50,000 recorded background checks.
“I had lines out the door in March, which was funny to me because I was like, ‘what, are you gonna shoot the virus?’”
March’s numbers were quickly surpassed. As the country experienced civil unrest in June, gun background checks nearly tripled in Georgia, compared to 2019, from 34,000 to over 106,000.
Brown says the run on guns caused a major backlog.
“I wish that we could’ve maybe spread this out a little further, because there’s a lot of people now that can’t get the firearms they need that work best for their needs,” he said. “These factories are working 24 hours a day, they’re pumping-out as much ammunition as they can get to the public. But there’s about a year back-order right now.”
Brown says there was yet another spike in gun sales following the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol. And he says he doesn’t expect sales to slow down, any time soon.
One big headline coming out of this is the increase, in first-time gun owners. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, retailers report 40 percent of gun buyers last year, were first-time users.
If you’d like to see the FBI’s criminal background check numbers for yourself, click here.