Mass. License to Carry gun permit applications doubled in 2020

DEDHAM, Mass. — More Massachusetts residents applied for firearm permits in 2020 than the previous two years combined, state 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.

State and federal data shows the demand for guns and ammunition in Massachusetts has never been higher, but because of manufacturing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply has also never been lower.

“It’s a national shortage, not just here in New England,” Norwood Armory Guns & Ammo owner Bob Sheehan said.

Sheehan gestured towards his empty display cases, shelves and gun racks. He said he first noticed delays from national manufactures in May and now has to turn customers away. He estimates he takes 20 to 30 calls a day from people looking for ammunition.

“There’s nothing for us to sell,” Sheehan said. “We had 80-year-old people coming in here with Licenses to Carry, purchasing guns.”

Massachusetts gun sales in 2020 led to an unprecedented number of background checks, with 262,583 run through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

For comparison, 212,316 background checks—around 40,000 less--were conducted in Massachusetts in 2019. Ten years ago, the number was 115,904, according to FBI data.

Advocates chalk the spike up to anxiety caused by the outbreak, the presidential election and violent protests across the country.

“What’s going on here is nothing sells better than fear,” Stop Handgun Violence co-founder John Rosenthal said. Rosenthal founded the Beverly-based gun control advocacy group in 1994.

“How do you sell guns? Fear works great, and frankly, after every mass shooting, after every major demonstration or after an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, what happens? Gun sales go up,” Rosenthal said.

In November, 25 Investigates reported women and first-time buyers were fueling a record breaking year for gun sales. Investigative Reporter Ted Daniel spoke with Kim Fernandes at a “ladies only” safety course at Cape Gun Works in Hyannis.

“I decided that I thought it would be a good idea first to take a class. Once I took the class, I felt comfortable owning a gun,” Fernandes said.

But right now it’s hard even finding the ammo to practice.

“It’s very difficult for us to get supplies for our training courses,” Gun Owner’s Action League Executive Director Jim Wallace said.

With 18,000 members, Wallace said GOAL is Massachusetts’ largest gun rights group. The ammo shortage has made it harder to train new gun owners, he said.

“What people who are new to this don’t realize is that some of our courses require 1,500 rounds of ammunition. Retailers that I talked to have a hard time getting anything in,” Wallace said.

Sheehan said shotguns for home defense and small handguns for License to Carry permits are the hot items, but he’s also noticed an increased demand in pepper-spray and stun guns.

“People are legitimately scared,” Wallace said. “You’re seeing so many new people coming to the Second Amendment, it’s not even funny.”

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