Mass. gun background checks on pace to break 2020 record

NATICK, Mass. — A chalkboard hangs outside B&K Sales Gun Shop letting potential customers know what is not in stock before they enter the store.

“I’ve had guns on back order since last March,” owner Brian Wooley said.

Wooley said he gets as many as 100 calls a day from people looking for guns and ammunition. But Wooley said he and gun retailers across the state have nothing to sell because of supply-chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand,” Wooley said.

The demand for guns and ammunition remains high. Massachusetts set a state record in 2020 with 262,583 background checks, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The Commonwealth is already on pace to shatter that number. Massachusetts reported 81,538 background checks in the first three months of 2021—the highest three-month total in state history.

29,570 background checks were initiated in January, the most in a single month in Massachusetts, FBI data shows.

Last year, 54,082 Bay State residents filed for a new License to Carry permit, eclipsing the previous year’s number by more than 30,000, according to data from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Wooley said fear is driving the demand.

“Quite honestly, people are scared,” said Jon Green, Director of Education and Training with the Gun Owners’ Action League in Massachusetts.

Around 4.7 million Americans started the background check progress in March, according to FBI statistics. That’s a 36 percent increase from February.

The recent demand coincides with a pair of mass shootings last month that left 18 dead in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado. House Democrats passed two gun control bills in March that would expand background check requirements.

“People who did not have an original interest in firearms ownership are looking at current events, they’re looking at ‘defund the police department’ movement, they’re seeing what’s being portrayed on the news all over. Quite frankly, they’re worried about their personal security,” Green said.

Wooley said most of his customers want two types of weapons.

“Right now shotguns for personal defense, and handguns if I can find them,” Wooley said.

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