Area gun dealers are seeing an increase in firearms sales following the Nov. 5 election, when Democrats seized control of both the Senate and House in the Virginia legislature, with promises of introducing more stringent gun control legislation.
Another Democrat, Ralph Northam, currently occupies the governor’s chair, giving Democrats better odds of passing gun control legislation, including “red flag” laws, which in essence allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed an immediate threat to themselves or others.
Bill Abbott of Abbott Farm Suppliers Inc. in Halifax said recently he always sees an uptick in firearms sales in the fall because of the start of hunting season, but since the election, he’s seen more gun sales as well.
“The fall it always picks up because of hunting season, but after the election there’s been a big increase,” said Abbott.
Abbott, a federally licensed firearms dealer, sells shotguns, rifles and handguns, and he has noticed an increase in sales “across the board.
“It’s about an equal mix of all three,” said Abbott.
Abbott said he was not surprised by the standing room only crowd of gun rights supporters at the board of supervisors meeting earlier this month when supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution declaring Halifax County a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
“I realize that people are very much concerned with what could happen. They are law-abiding citizens who wanted to see their rights protected,” he said.
Abbott thinks people are concerned about some of the proposed laws further restricting possession of firearms put forward by some legislators since the election, and that may be one reason for the recent uptick in firearms sales.
“Certainly, that has something to do with it,” said Abbott.
Virginia law currently prohibits any person under age 18 from knowingly and intentionally possessing or transporting a handgun or assault firearm or a shotgun “which will hold more than seven rounds of the longest ammunition for which it is chambered.”
Northam also has signaled his support for proposed legislation that raises the minimum age for possessing a firearm from 18-21, something that caught the attention of at least one citizen at the Dec. 2 meeting of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.
Halifax Del. James Edmunds, noting the groundswell of support for measures opposing the rights of gun owners, is proposing legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session that would protect counties and localities declaring themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries from laws further restricting gun ownership rights.
A Second Amendment Sanctuary refers to resolutions adopted to not expend resources to enforce certain gun control measures perceived to be in violation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, giving citizens the right to keep and bear firearms.
National Instant Criminal Background Check System firearm background checks, according to the FBI, increased nationally from 2,030,530 in January 2018 to 2,574,752 in November 2019.
National Instant Criminal Background Check System is a United States system for determining if prospective firearms or explosives buyers’ name and birth year match those of a person who is not eligible to buy.
In Virginia, the increase has been even more pronounced in the first 11 months of 2019, rising from 37,857 in January to 57,662 in November.
Michael Slaughter, owner of DPC Pawn and Gun Shop in South Boston, has been busy recently reading a list of proposed gun laws pending in the Virginia General Assembly in January.
Slaughter, whose business sells shotguns, rifles and handguns, said it was hard to tell if there had been an increase in firearm sales the past several months, and like Abbott, he said hunting season normally increases firearms sales.
“We see an increase for hunting season and Christmas anyway,” said Slaughter. “Right now, I don’t think we’re far off last year’s numbers. I think most likely we’ll see a big run at the beginning of the year. It’s just now hitting the press more and more around here.”
Further gun restrictions, if adopted by the Virginia legislature and signed into law by Northam, won’t necessarily doom businesses like his, according to Slaughter.
“It’s always concerning as a dealer, but I don’t think it’s going to sink the business by any means,” he explained. “People won’t stop buying guns, because they have restrictions. You may see magazine restrictions or something like that.”
Slaughter added he is keeping a keen eye on gun control legislation that comes up for discussion in January.
“We’ll deal with whatever restrictions they place on us. We certainly don’t want to see any, at least none that don’t make any sense,” said Slaughter.
Kenneth Hawks, owner of Guns N’ Stuff in Halifax, declined to comment for this story.