Gun sales significantly increased in Oregon last year and in January, amid riots in Portland and the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 516,696 background checks were done in the state in 2020, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
That’s a jump from the 357,700 background checks in 2019 and 359,682 background checks in the state in 2018.
The figures are from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, where requests for background checks are lodged. The checks are made to make sure a prospective buyer doesn’t have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or own a firearm.
Requests for background checks increased significantly nationwide, with nearly 40 million requests in 2020 compared to 28.3 million the year prior. Oregon represented a 44 percent increase, and almost 1.5 percent of the increase.
Some in the state attributed the higher number of sales to the riots that took place in Portland or elsewhere, as criminals burned buildings, clashed with law enforcement, and robbed stores.
“They tried to burn Portland down for 150 [expletive] days,” Guntraders owner Jerry Koch told The Epoch Times. The buyers are” buying guns for defense,” he added.
Koch saw his sales rise in June 2020, when the riots escalated in Portland. Six out of 10 customers at the Redmond store since then have been people who never owned a firearm before, he estimated.
“They’re doing it because they’re afraid,” he said.
Scott Wyke, owner of Hammer Down Firearms, told The Oregonian that he’s seen both guns and ammunition fly off the shelves.
“All the riots started it,” Wyke said. “Now it’s the Democrats saying they’re going to take our guns away and people are purchasing now. Ammunition is in short supply now.”
Wyke has also attributed the rise in sales to first-time buyers.
Sales have remained high so far this year, with nearly 50,000 background checks requested in Oregon in January alone. If that rate continued, the state would see another increase in 2021.
Nationwide, almost 4.3 million background checks were done in January 2021.
Mark Olivia, director of public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Epoch Times that sales were driven by people’s concern for their safety amid the rioting. Then, in the fall, they began paying attention to President Joe Biden’s pledges to enact gun restrictions if he won the election.
Biden on Feb. 14 called on Congress to implement some of his proposals to restrict gun ownership, including requiring background checks on all gun sales.
According to a survey of retailers the foundation conducted, 40 percent of buyers last year were people who had not previously owned guns.
“The adults invested in their personal safety plan and they came off the sidelines, and they chose a side, and they are now firearm owners,” he said. “So that’s a big shift.”
The foundation also found that 40 percent of gun buyers in 2020 were women, and that 15 percent more purchases were made by African-Americans compared to the previous year.
Whether another record is set this year in terms of background checks may be linked to manufacturers’ ability to keep up with demand, according to Olivia.
Trent Butler, executive director of the Orange County Gun Owners political action committee in California, told The Epoch Times that civil unrest and government policies enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were among the factors in the increase in people buying guns.
“It’s a perfect storm,” Butler said. “I think people are making very complex value assessments and deciding that having a substantial ability to defend themselves … is something that’s critical to daily life.”
Brad Jones contributed to this report.