Mass. License to Carry gun permit applications reach four-year high

NORWOOD, Mass. — Norwood Armory owner Bob Sheehan said he can’t keep his gun store shelves stocked. The combination of a nationwide supply-chain shortage and an intense demand for weapons and ammo is forcing him to turn customers away.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the political climate that’s going on,” Sheehan said. “Right now, it’s a huge demand and very little supply.”

According to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, 54,263 Massachusetts residents applied for a new License to Carry permit in 2021, eclipsing 2020′s total of 54,082. The amount of new LTC applications dwarfed the totals from 2018 (25,377) and 2019 (23,010).  The data shows 4,746 fewer people applied to renew their LTC permits in 2021 compared to the year before.

“The demand is pretty high,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owner’s Action League in Massachusetts. Wallace said the fastest growing demographic among his members is women.

“People, in general, are taking more responsibility for themselves,” Wallace said. “A lot of people have finally woken up and realized the police can’t always be there.”

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows 262,583 background checks were conducted in Massachusetts in 2020. The state came close to beating that record in 2021, with 259,248 background checks. A decade ago, there were only 153,487 background checks conducted in the Commonwealth.

“One of the things that definitely drives up sales of guns is fear,” said John Rosenthal, the founder of the gun control group Stop Handgun Violence. “We often see a spike in gun sales when a democrat is elected to the White House, just like when we see a spike in gun sales when there are very high profile mass shootings.”

Massachusetts law allows people who are not licensed gun dealers to “transfer” up to four firearms a year “without processing the sale or transfer of the firearm through a licensed gun dealer. Massachusetts does not explicitly require these private sellers to conduct a background check of their prospective purchasers,” according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Remember, what you’re seeing is only background checks, and background checks are only happening when someone buys a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer,” Rosenthal said.

Sheehan believes the demand for guns in Massachusetts will cool off at some point. He wonders if the market for gun enthusiasts is already saturated.

“I would love to see it keep growing but I don’t know if [it will],” he said.