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Gun sales explode in states banning them: FBI by Paul Bedard, Washington Secrets Columnist

The sales of firearms, especially AR-15-style rifles, unexpectedly turned up last month, apparently driven by efforts in several states to impose gun bans.

Industry officials reviewing the latest FBI background check information said that states planning gun bans or moving to change the rules governing firearms purchases saw massive jumps in April sales.

In Washington state, where the governor just signed a law banning the sale or transfer of AR-style rifles, background checks for April sales surged to 71,272 compared to 49,641 in April 2022, a 43.6% increase, said Mark Oliva, the spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

The industry trade group found a surge in Illinois, where it recently won a federal court decision to block a ban on modern sporting rifles. There, Oliva said, sales background checks increased 11.7% in April.

(Image via the NSSF)

Ditto in Oregon, he said: “Oregon, a state with a legislature and governor’s office hostile to lawful firearm ownership, totaled 43,574 adjusted background checks in April 2023, compared to 27,921 a year ago, representing a 56.1% increase.”

Even states that moved to change the rules to buy guns saw a big sales uptick before any new regulations began to take effect.

“Notably, North Carolina’s legislature overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that repealed the state’s antiquated Jim Crow-era permit-to-purchase a handgun scheme which immediately reverted the state to using the FBI NICS system to verify all handgun sales,” Oliva said. “North Carolina came in with 68,181 background checks in April 2023, compared to 18,967 in April 2022, a 238.4% increase.”

In recent months, concerns about safety drove sales highs, and that is continuing to add to the records. But Oliva said the difference in April was the threats from the government to take away gun rights.


“April’s uptick of 1,369,296 FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verifications shows that there continues to be a steady appetite for lawful firearm ownership even as certain state governors and legislators are taking radical measures to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms, especially the Modern Sporting Rifle,” Oliva said in a reference to AR- and AK-style rifles.

“These figures show that when Americans are concerned that government authorities will deny them the full spectrum of their Second Amendment rights, they will respond by exercising those rights. It also shows that when barriers to lawful firearm ownership are torn down, law-abiding citizens will exercise their right to lawfully purchase firearms,” he said.

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