As questions about further restrictions and regulations of guns in California and San Mateo County are debated, the state and some gun store owners have seen gun sale increases over the past year.
Coyote Point Armory owner John Parkin said gun sales at his Burlingame full-service gun store have been up about 60% on average since the pandemic. He sees customers visiting from all over to buy, including those commuting to the area for work.
“I would say business is doing very well,” Parkin said.
He cited reasons like the uncertainty over COVID-19, talk of new state gun laws and concerns about talks of defunding the police. Sales can fluctuate, and it is relatively unknown what sales will be like year to year as different public factors and elements can influence sales. Parkin noted sales of all types of guns from handguns, revolvers, rifles and semiautomatic weapons are currently doing well.
“Right now, the sales aren’t like 2020, but they are better than 2019,” he said.
Parkin said California is already too restrictive on gun laws, noting some buyers are afraid the guns they want will be unavailable in the future because of potential new laws.
“Every time California makes a new gun law, people get a little uptight,” Parkin said.
According to data from the California Department of Justice released July 1, Attorney General Rob Bonta noted 2020 saw increased gun sales compared to previous years, although 2016 remains the highest year for total sales on record. There were a record 686,435 handgun sales in 2020, increasing 65.5% from 2019 when there were 414,705. The sale of long guns increased 45.9% from 329,311 in 2019 to 480,401 in 2020. Around 72% of handgun transactions in California in 2020 were purchases made with dealers and around 89% for long guns. An increase at the state level can also be seen at the federal level when the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2020 processed a record 39.7 million background checks, an increase of 28.4 million in 2019. Background checks are considered an indicator of gun sales.
Parkin said COVID-19 and the uncertainty about what would happen to people during the pandemic have led to increased gun sales. According to Open Justice data from the California Department of Justice, March 2020 saw the highest rate of gun transactions in the state at 128,174, with June the second highest at 119,442. While gun sales are up, Parkin said ammunition is not as readily available after gun maker Remington went bankrupt. Remington represented a significant portion of ammunition sales across the country.
Gun control at both the state and county level has seen recent change. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez from the southern district of California recently ruled in June that California’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, banning various semiautomatic firearms, was unconstitutional. In his ruling, he noted the AR-15 rifle was good for both home and battle, and “like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”
Meanwhile, San Mateo County in June approved greater gun regulations for gun retailers looking to open in unincorporated San Mateo County, including stricter licensing, safety and operations protocol.
The county wants to strengthen its gun retail ordinance for the unincorporated areas and create a future model ordinance for Peninsula cities to adopt. The updated ordinance would require more safety restrictions like steel bars over windows, better alarm systems and surveillance cameras and buffer zones between future shops and sensitive areas. Buffer zones would require stores to be 200 feet from residential structures and 600 feet from schools, community centers and religious institutions.
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